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Restructured banks 'would interest Asian investors'

IRELAND's embattled banks would be "quite attractive" to Asian investors once they have been restructured, Asian Development Bank (ADB) president Haruhiko Kuroda said yesterday.

Mr Kuroda also said that he was "cautiously optimistic" about the prospects for the Irish economy, stressing that the infrastructure and human capital created in the boom were still big assets.

And the ADB boss said his hopes for a single Asian currency had not been "shaken" by the euro crisis, adding that the euro would survive the current meltdown.

The comments came ahead of a meeting between Mr Kuroda and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan yesterday.

Ireland is the most recent member to join the ADB, which lends about €16bn annually to facilitate growth in developing Asian economies.

Since 2006, Ireland has stumped up $13.11m (€9.6m) for ADB's general capital as well as $77.31m for the bank's Special Resources Funds.

As a non-Asian country, the Irish sovereign can't avail of the ADB's super-low lending rates, but Irish companies doing business in Asia can bid for cheap ADB funding.


Mr Kuroda, who was en route to the global economic forum in Davos, said he had been closely watching the situation in Ireland and Europe.

"Almost every week the Irish crisis has been reported, even in Asia," he said.

"Every businessman knows the situation, so certainly Ireland's reputation may have been affected."

Mr Kuroda stressed that despite that damage, Asians could still see an investment case for Ireland, adding that "Japanese, Koreans and Chinese" were among those who were "looking around the world" for "opportunities" presented by the crisis.

Investors from the east have been touted as potential new owners for Ireland's banks; Mr Kuroda stressed that the banking sector must first be "substantially reorganised and strengthened".

"Financial institutions, once restructured, could be quite attractive for investors, not just Asian but American also," he added.

Mr Kuroda hinted that Asian investors would be open to Irish real estate companies and construction firms once they too had been restructured and reduced their debt levels.

On the wider Irish situation, Mr Kuroda said he was "cautiously optimistic about the future prospects" of our economy.

"Ireland has a strong industrial basis; in the past couple of decades Ireland's infrastructure has substantially improved, and there's a lot of human capital," he said. "Most of the real gains in the economy will stay [despite the downturn]."

Mr Kuroda was also complimentary about the steps taken at European and Irish political level to resolve the economic crisis and said he thought the interest premium investors demanded to hold Irish debt would "eventually narrow".

Irish Independent