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Regulator gives AIB board reality check

THEY knew it was coming, but they had no idea how bad it was going to be until the brutal end in the wee hours of yesterday morning.

At AIB's sprawling Bankcentre complex, the pressure had been mounting all day. By early afternoon, it was common knowledge among senior executives that Anglo Day was going to be about much more than Anglo.

Word had it that the Financial Regulator was preparing to increase AIB's capital target -- the amount of money the bank needs to have in order to function properly -- amid fears the bank was facing bigger-than-expected losses on the toxic loans it's transferring to the National Asset Management Agency.

The bank's board was put on standby for an emergency meeting that night.

A bigger capital target wouldn't be a good thing, but AIB was in bullish form having offloaded its Polish businesses for an expectation-beating €3bn just a few weeks ago.

Then, after the markets closed on Wednesday night, their world begin to shift. The Financial Regulator and the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) began to seriously engage with AIB's management.

A flurry of meetings at the NTMA ensued and AIB's board was duly summoned to Bankcentre for a late-night meeting. It was not until the early hours of the morning, though, when AIB was told of the horrific €3bn number.

"There was a plan, the extra €3bn put the complete kibosh on that plan," said one source, describing the bank's shock.

AIB was already battling to raise €7.4bn by the end of the year in a charge led by its managing director Colm Doherty and executive director Dan O'Connor. As soon as the extra €3bn figure emerged, it became clear that the duo's plan was now Mission: Impossible.

"That was their plan, the plan had failed because it now couldn't succeed (with the extra €3bn)," said one source.

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The NTMA broke the news, but the pair knew the writing was on the wall. They knew they would have to "walk the plank" in the face of this impossible demand. The message was relayed to AIB's board, most of whom made it in person to the hastily-convened meeting.


An all-night affair ensued at Bankcentre, with several executives staying through right until yesterday morning's 6.30am announcement to put the final flourish on the public account of events. An NTMA team led by the agency's boss John Corrigan and head of banking Michael Torpey was burning the midnight oil too, staying until past 2am.

The world would soon wake up to the news that the game was up for AIB and its management duo. The bank now has no chance of avoiding "majority state ownership", the polite term for nationalisation.

O'Connor will step down "within the coming weeks", while Doherty will be gone "before the end of 2010", a carefully-worded announcement from AIB confirmed.

At AIB, the shock was still palpable last night. "Less than 36 hours ago, we were in a very different place," one source said, reflecting on the break-neck speed of developments.

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