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Regulator sets end-of-month deadline for bank to raise cash

BANK of Ireland must raise €1.4bn in fresh investment by the end of this month, working to a schedule set down by the Financial Regulator.

That deadline falls before a new round of bank stress tests is completed at the end of March, making private sector investors wary of putting up any cash in the meantime.

The deadlines have been signed off by so many layers which include regulators, ministers and international "bailout" partners that they are unlikely to be moved now.

But this leaves Ireland's last bank standing in a precarious position in trying to sort out a funding issue at an Irish bank, and the taxpayer, as ever, is signing the cheque.

The latest idea to avoid Bank of Ireland falling into state control is a mechanism that allows the Government to step in as a short-term investor and step out when the stress tests are complete.

After all, with the IMF now involved, any institution considering investing after March will have much more confidence in this set of stress tests when compared to the last round that gave AIB a clean bill of health.

So far so good, but just how temporary the capital injection will be will depend not just on the stress-test results but also, and more critically, on the wider investment climate.

The use of words "temporary" and "investment" have been used all too much when talking about Irish financial institutions, but in the end they morph into the terms "permanent" and "state ownership".

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