Monday 18 December 2017

US 'activist' investment firm snaps up 60 million BoI shares

Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

US investor fund Harris Associates has returned to the market as a buyer of Bank of Ireland shares, snapping up another 60 million in recent days.

The transaction sees Harris's shareholding in the bank rise from 3pc to 4pc, making it BoI's second-biggest shareholder after the National Pension Reserve Fund. Harris has been buying into Bank of Ireland since late 2008, when it quickly amassed a 9pc stake.

The buying spree triggered speculation that Harris was preparing to take an active interest in BoI's strategy, since the fund has built up a name as an 'activist' investor.

Since then, Harris stake in the bank has fluctuated. The fund is understood to have a "normal" level of contact with BoI's investor relations team, with no inference of activism.

Harris has tended to buy the stock when it is cheap and take some profit when it becomes more expensive.

The fund's website stresses that Harris is "dedicated to delivering long-term investment performance", viewing "every stock purchase. . . as if we were buying a piece of a business".

Harris chief investment officer David Herro has previously described BoI as one of the best banking franchises in the country.

Shares in Bank of Ireland closed down almost 2pc yesterday, at 59c, mirroring falls across the other Irish financials.

Irish Independent

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