Sunday 21 January 2018

Desmond sold bank shares over Nama concerns

SHANE ROSS

Entrepreneur Dermot Desmond sold his stake in both AIB and Bank of Ireland because of his concerns about the state's National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

Sources close to Mr Desmond's investment vehicle IIU insist that the leading businessman's decision to sell his entire holding was not only due to the handsome profit that he earned from the deal, but was also down to his strong reservations about the establishment of Nama. It is believed that the sale may have been prompted by Mr Desmond's fears that the Nama project could flounder in the face of the head of steam now building up in political and academic circles against the project, bringing a halt to the recent rally in Irish bank shares.

Mr Desmond is known to have strong views opposing Nama. Four months ago he expressed his opposition to the Government's project and publicly called for it to be parked so that the banks could sort out their difficulties. The financier is believed to be a strong opponent of nationalisation but has rarely expressed his views on these issues; close associates of his were suggesting on Friday that his decision to sell his shares in the banks would leave him free to speak independently and more publicly about the issue.

One of Ireland's most consistently successful investors, Mr Desmond is rumoured to have netted more than €20m in profit from his recent deals on Irish bank shares.

He built up a one per cent stake in the two banks in January, when both were selling at prices below 50¢.

He sold his 5.1 million AIB shares on August 6 and then disposed of his 8.9 million shares in Bank of Ireland just a day later, on August 7.

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