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BANK: BoI boss Richie Boucher is pursuing his own one-man austerity programme. Photo: Frank McGrath

BANK: BoI boss Richie Boucher is pursuing his own one-man austerity programme. Photo: Frank McGrath

BANK: BoI boss Richie Boucher is pursuing his own one-man austerity programme. Photo: Frank McGrath

The decision by Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher not to take a chunk of his remuneration again last year, is admirable - if not a little confusing.

Bank executives who found themselves with big pay deals when the crash came, felt obliged to take a financial hit and forgo some of their lavish earnings. It was about eating humble pie; reflecting the fact that taxpayers had bailed out the banks; showing "solidarity" with those caught in austerity - and being ordered to do so by politicians.

It isn't at all clear why Boucher is still forgoing salary now. The State has been paid back and actually looks like it is going to make money out of Bank of Ireland. It is a privately-owned and privately-controlled company. Wilbur Ross and other investors have already made hundreds of millions in profit from its recovery.

Boucher has done a very good job at the bank and is well paid for it. Last year, he earned a total remuneration package of €961,000 and decided not to take €118,000. His pre-tax earnings still came in at a very nice €843,000.

If he is being paid more money than he feels is appropriate, then why not pay him less? If he and the board believe he should be paid more, then why not pay him more? Continuing with a situation where he earns a certain compensation and believes he should not accept it all, is a little bizarre at this stage.

Perhaps paying him less might make some of the board's remuneration look a little out of kilter. Chairman Archie Kane was paid €490,000 last year. Non-executive director Patrick Haren received €147,000, down €1,000 on the €148,000 he earned the previous year. Former Department of Finance secretary-general Tom Considine was paid €98,000.

These are enormous sums for part-time jobs - and are closer to the boom-time fees for non-executives, when the chief executive of the bank was making around €2m.

David Duffy was earning €500,000 at AIB and he volunteered a pay cut. After steering the bank back to profitability, he is moving on to Clydesdale Bank, where is likely to earn a multiple of that sum.

This is despite the fact that AIB is set to re-float on the stock market and, presumably, there would have been some scope for a share-based incentive plan. Duffy has said the pay cap was not a factor in his decision to move on.

No such plan is in place for Boucher, despite the profitability of the bank. This July, the last of Boucher's old share options will lapse, at an exercise price of €12.85 per share. The stock is trading at 36c.

He owns 380,957 shares in Bank of Ireland, currently valued at €137,144. That is roughly one year of Tom Considine's Department of Finance pension.

Boucher has a number of obstacles that stand in the way of a proper big pay day at Bank of Ireland. One is getting through the mortgage arrears issue and any house repossessions that have to be done. The other is an appearance at the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry in a few weeks, where he will be asked about his role at the bank during the boom years.

If he shows a clean pair of heels there, he could be on his way to finally landing that big pay day.

 

Kilkenny following in Kerry's footsteps

Glanbia is strolling the "Kerry Way" in more ways than one. Having gradually reduced the co-op's shareholding in the Kilkenny-based group to 41.2pc, Glanbia is now looking at reducing that further to 36.5pc, through a share sale and a direct distribution of plc shares to co-op members. The move will also pave the way to reduce the co-op stake in the plc further to 33pc.

This all makes perfect sense and is good for the plc, good for the co-op and good for farmers.

It is being done at a time when Glanbia's share price is riding high, so they are getting a good price for the transfer. Furthermore, Glanbia farmers can always hold on to the plc shares if they wish, rather than sell them into the market now.

Kerry Group has been the model here where its co-op shareholding in the plc has been steadily reduced since 1993. It is now down to 17pc.

Kerry co-op farmers have had a total of 58.5 million Kerry Group shares placed in their pockets over six share distributions. Many of them are probably still held in biscuit tins on top of the kitchen press as the farmers held on to them. If Kerry farmers had kept them all and not sold, (which of course is possible, given how cute Kerry farmers are at managing their money), those shares would be worth a staggering €3.8bn today.

The Kerry co-op's remaining 17pc in Kerry Group plc is valued at a further €1.9bn. This is a farmer ATM machine on steroids.

The Glanbia dairy farmers of Kilkenny and Waterford are now poised to get another slice of their own action. They received €156m in 2012 and have retained majority ownership of the dairy ingredients joint venture with the plc.

The move increases liquidity Glanbia stock and reduces co-op board representation. It seems highly likely that Glanbia co-op and the plc will, over time, reduce the co-op shareholding to similar levels as Kerry Group.

Reducing below 15pc to 20pc is a different matter, and not one that would be taken lightly by either side.

Putin is costing us money over Quinn assets

The meter is still running on the cost of the Sean Quinn collapse to taxpayers.

Last week, it emerged that Russian asset recovery group A1 failed for a second time to attract bidders for a Kazan-based logistics centre that used to be owned by Sean Quinn. It is now controlled by the Irish State.

A1 is looking for around €40.5m from the sale of Q-Park, 450 miles east of Moscow. The same problem may arise with other former Quinn assets in Russia and the Ukraine.

Valuable time was lost by the IBRC liquidators as they tried to unravel a complex scheme of arrangements aimed at preventing them from getting control of these assets.

IBRC also spent around €40m on legal fees in the process. It hoped to sell them for €500m, which simply isn't going to happen.

The Russian/Ukraine crisis has seen the Russian rouble fall by 40pc against the dollar and the Ukrainian Hryvnia fall by close to 80pc.

When they do finally sell, the price will be a lot less when translated back into euros. Instead of getting €500m for the assets, let's say they sell for €200m. Russian firm A1 gets 30pc of the proceeds, leaving €133m for the State. Add in the €40m in legal and other costs and the State's take is under €100m.

Then there is the €30m in rent that IBRC claims is missing.

The scheme to put assets beyond the reach of IBRC could cost taxpayers over €400m.

Last week's column referred to Iluka buying shares in Kenmare Resources. We are happy to clarify that Iluka owns no shares in Kenmare

rcurran@independent.ie

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