Saturday 17 March 2018

Santander seeks to cherry-pick AIB's best assets

CHAIRMAN: Emilio Botin. Photo: Reuters
CHAIRMAN: Emilio Botin. Photo: Reuters
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

BANCO Santander, the jumbo-sized Spanish banking giant, is thought to be keen on "cherry-picking" some of the prime assets of AIB and other cash strapped financial institutions in Ireland.

The bank has already spent €2.94bn to buy AIB's Polish business Banco Zachodni.

Senior bankers have indicated that Santander may be interested in buying parts of AIB as well as other assets owned by Irish banks. These include certain loan books, such as some corporate borrowings, credit card loans and property debts.

It is thought that Bank of Ireland's €1.4bn shipping loan and maritime business is now being targeted by potential buyers. Interest in high street branches is muted.

Santander declined to comment. Last month, chairman Emilio Botin said the bank was concentrating on integrating its new purchases.

It has also emerged that Credit Agricole and Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) have both run the rule over Irish banking assets in recent weeks, according to sources. However, it is thought that both the French banks have had their ardour cooled by the grim prospects for the Irish economy.

Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan has been a strong advocate for selling off AIB and the other Irish banks. The NTMA and National Pensions Reserve Fund are believed to have been scouring the world for potential buyers or investment groups willing to buy an equity stake in the banks.

However, it was thought that the authorities would prefer to sell off AIB as a whole rather than break it up and sell off constituent parts.

Recently, it emerged that the Libyan Investment Authority had sought meetings with Irish authorities last year over a possible investment in the banking sector. A recent trade mission to the Gulf is believed to have pitched Irish banks to local sovereign wealth funds.

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