AIB: One bank, two views, as IPO looms

Government plans to price sale of up to 28.8 per cent stake in AIB this week

Would-be small investors in AIB’s flotation have until the close of business on Tuesday to put in orders with stockbroking firms involved in the transaction.

Would-be small investors in AIB’s flotation have until the close of business on Tuesday to put in orders with stockbroking firms involved in the transaction.

 

Would-be small investors in AIB’s flotation have until the close of business on Tuesday to put in orders with stockbroking firms involved in the transaction.

Individual members of the public must commit a minimum €10,000 to invest in AIB’s initial public offering and have had an account as of last Friday with one of the eight brokerages signed up by the Department of Finance to deal with small, or retail, investors.

The Government has indicated it plans to sell up to a 28.8 per cent stake in the State-owned bank at between €3.90 and €4.90 per share, valuing the group at up to €13.3 billion.

Below are two views on whether AIB is worth investing in.

Brendan Burgess

Founder of consumer forum askaboutmoney.com

1. Highlights that AIB’s after-tax profit last year of €1.36 billion was flattered by “one-off items” such as the net release of provisions previously set aside for bad loans, at €298 million, and a €272 million profit from the sale of its stake in Visa Europe. Stripping this out, you’re left with net profit of below €800 million.

2. Based on AIB’s underlying earnings for last year, this would suggest that, at €4.90 each, the shares would be trading at 17 times their historic earnings. He said this is “expensive” and compares to a current price-to-earnings rate of 10 for rival Bank of Ireland, according to Mr Burgess.

3. Says the “clear and present risk” to AIB’s profits in the coming years is an expected fall in Irish mortgage rates, given that the average rate is 3.4 per cent in Ireland versus 1.8 per cent across the euro zone. A new entrant to the market would bring “overcharging” down in the sector and a 1 per cent reduction would shave €200 million off AIB’s profits, he says.

4. On the positive side, he says AIB has about €3 billion of “excess capital” that could be returned to shareholders in time, though regulators are unlikely to allow this in the short term.

5. As AIB makes most of its income in Ireland, it is exposed to risks to the domestic economy, including Brexit, an increase in European Central Bank rates, a reduction in current “artificially high” Irish corporate tax from US multinationals and a rise in trade protectionism in the US and worldwide.

Conclusion: “As the price is expected to be towards the upper end of the €3.90 to €4.90 range, it is overpriced and should be avoided.” Says a €3.90 share price reflects an “optimistic” outlook.

Daragh Quinn and Hari Sivakumaran

Europe-based analyst with US brokerage Keefe, Bruyette & Woods

1. Set an initial price target of €4.70 per share for AIB, at the higher end of the targeted range, based on the view that the bank can make “strong returns”, or profits equivalent to 14 per cent of its regulatory capital base, and that it has surplus capital reserves that can be released over time.

2. However, they say: “We believe it will take time for both the bank and the regulator to get comfortable about releasing excess capital.”

3. Estimate that the AIB, which this year paid its first dividend since 2008, will be at a stage in 2019 when it is paying out half of its earnings to shareholders. They also expect that the equivalent of a further 50 per cent of profits could be given to investors that year by way of a “special dividend” to offload excess funds.

4. Say AIB’s loan book, which contracted by 7 per cent last year to €65.2 billion to continue a trend that has been going on for almost a decade, is on the cusp of returning to growth. This is a key issue for many observers, as future profit growth is linked to loan book expansion.

5. Highlight risks for AIB such as Brexit, and the potential for Irish tax changes that would limit AIB’s ability to use €2.8 billion of accumulated prior losses to minimise its tax bill for up to three decades. The UK lowered such scope over the past two years.

Conclusion: AIB’s €4.90 price target may be too cautious, saying: “If the market was willing to put a value on the potential for additional excess capital or discount stronger growth rates, there would be additional upside versus our current price target.”