Taxpayers no longer the biggest shareholder in Bank of Ireland

Francesca McDonagh

The Government has cut its stake in Bank of Ireland to 6.93pc meaning it is no longer the single biggest share holder in the bank, according to a stock market filing.

Taxpayers had been the biggest shareholder in the bank since its €4.8bn bailout following the financial crisis, although that stake as been dramatically cut over recent years.

Department of Finance estimates suggest taxpayers are up around €2bn on the cost of rescuing the bank since then including more than €1.5bn in cash and the value of remaining shares.

The Government move means Blackrock, the world's biggest asset manager, is now Bank of Ireland’s top shareholder with a 6.95pc stake.

Between 2009 and 2011 the then Government pumped €4.8bn into the bank in addition to guaranteeing its loans but Bank of Ireland was the only domestic bank that was not taken in majority state ownership.

However, that tally includes not just the money recouped from selling bank shares but also fees charged for in effect insuring the bank’s debts and interest on Bank of Ireland’s bailout bills but does not account for the costs to the State of borrowing to fund bank rescues or the knock on effect of the bank bailouts in driving the country out of the bond markets in 2010.

In June last year the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe announced his intention to gradually reduce the State’s then remaining 13.9pc stake in the bank initially by November with that timeline since extended to May this year.

Francesca McDonagh, CEO, Bank of Ireland Group said: “In just over six months, the State holding in Bank of Ireland has halved. As of today, the State is no longer the largest shareholder in the Group. The ongoing sale process is a positive one for Irish taxpayers, the Irish economy, and Bank of Ireland. We welcome its momentum, and look forward to being the first Irish bank to return to full private ownership during this year.”