Business World

Saturday 24 February 2018

Focus fixed on financial stocks ahead of BoI sell-off

John Mulligan

There was little surprise that the key focus for yesterday's trading in Ireland remained firmly fixed on financial stocks, as Bank of Ireland (BoI) said it was planning to offload a raft of businesses to appease mandarins in Brussels.

Airline stocks were also being closely watched as the continuing volcanic eruption in Iceland wreaked havoc with flights across Europe.

The ISEQ Overall Index closed relatively flat yesterday, dipping just 4.5 points into the red to finish at 3,337.69. It had fared better earlier in the day, but steeper late afternoon falls in firms such as pharmaceutical group Elan, and a late decline in BoI stock, helped to subdue the index. Only a small number of stocks remained in positive territory by the end of the day. Shares in BoI flirted with gains for most of the day, rising as much as 4.3pc at one stage, as the bank said units it planned to sell included its New Ireland Assurance, ICS Building Society and asset management divisions.

BoI is finalising a restructuring plan that the European Commission must approve as payback for the Government's recapitalisation of institutions.

Shares in the bank closed down 0.6pc, or 1c, at €1.71.

Shares in the other two main quoted institutions, Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and Irish Life & Permanent (IL&P), did not do as well. AIB tumbled 6.8pc, or 11c, to close at €1.50, while IL&P shed 3.1pc, or almost 11c to finish at €3.33.

Shares in Ryanair closed down 2.5pc, or 10c, at €3.89 as it was forced to cancel more flights due to the impact of the Icelandic volcanic eruption.

Aer Lingus, which said that all its transatlantic flights would operate as normal today, managed to close up 2.74pc, or 2c, at 75c.

In other sectors, Elan, which releases first quarter results this Wednesday, fell 4.3pc, or 26c, to €5.68. CRH added 3.6pc, or 69c, to end at €19.60.

Elsewhere in Europe, UK stocks dropped the most in two months, led by a sell-off in banks and commodity producers after US regulators charged the Goldman Sachs Group with fraud.

The benchmark FTSE-100 Index sank 81.05, or 1.4pc, to 5,743.96 in London, the biggest decline since February. The gauge fell 0.6pc this week, snapping six straight weeks of gains.

Barclays, the UK's second-biggest bank, dropped 2.6pc to £3.73 (€4.25), the biggest drop since February 11. HSBC, Europe's largest bank, fell 2pc to £6.98 (€7.95).

Benchmark stock indices fell in all 18 western European markets, except Iceland.

Irish Independent

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