State exit from AIB in 2025 ‘within the bounds of possibility’, says chief executive Colin Hunt

Seen & Heard: Receivers slash office asking price; Arthur’s Quay sale shelved; firms opt to close over tax debt

AIB could be fully back in private hands in 2025, as a buyback next month prepares to reduce the Government’s stake in the country’s second-biggest bank to just over a third, according to the Financial Times on foot of an interview with the bank’s chief executive Colin Hunt.

The State holds less than 40 per cent of the bank, which was bailed out by taxpayers after the 2008 financial crash. Its shareholders are expected to approve a €1 billion buyback of shares from the State at its annual general meeting on May 2nd, the same day it releases its first-quarter results, and investors are watching for news of the pace of further reductions.

“If [the buyback is] approved, and I think it will be, the Government’s shareholding will fall below 34 per cent,” said Hunt in the interview.

According to the FT, analysts believe that if last year’s pace of reductions is continued, the State holding could hit the low 20s by the year-end. A total exit in 2025 is “certainly within the bounds of possibility”, said Mr Hunt.


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“The 2023 results were very strong, the most successful year in the history of the bank. But it’s a bookend,” said Mr Hunt. “It’s a chapter closing ... We should never forget the [global financial crisis] because there are always lessons to be drawn from it, for we should no longer be defined by it.”

Receivers halve asking price for Dublin office building

Receivers have halved the asking price of a high-profile Dublin office to €40 million in advance of putting it on the market, the Sunday Times reported.

Receivers Nicholas O’Dwyer and John Boland of Grant Thornton have told estate agent Colliers to put the 17,651sq m (190,000sq ft) Beckett Building on Dublin’s East Wall on the market.

The Sunday Times said the asking price will be €40 million, half the €80 million sought by Korean fund KB Financial Group last year.

Facebook owner Meta was leasing the building for €4.5 million a year but ended this agreement last March as it reined in costs and cut staff.

Developer rethinks Limerick shopping centre site

Tiernan Properties has abandoned the sale of Arthur’s Quay shopping centre in Limerick in favour of a €200 million redevelopment plan with 300 social, affordable and cost-rental apartments, the Sunday Independent said.

The company said it would put the shopping centre on the market for €15 million last year, but told the newspaper that it now intends to redevelop the site “in conjunction with a framework plan being led by Limerick City and County Council for the Arthur’s Quay area”.

The new scheme will triple the existing retail space at Arthur’s Quay, noted the Sunday Independent.

More businesses to pursue wind-up rather than pay deferred taxes

A growing number of businesses are opting to wind up rather than pay taxes deferred in a Covid support scheme, the Business Post reported.

More than 4,000 companies that each owes above €50,000 in tax “warehoused” during the pandemic have yet to agree repayment deals with Revenue as a May 1st deadline for collecting the cash looms.

“It is becoming clear that some firms will be unable to agree and are opting for voluntary wind-up instead,” the Business Post reported.

Accountants predict between 800 and 1,000 insolvencies by the end of the year, a high not seen in almost a decade, it added.

UK to close its last coal-burning power plant

Britain will close its sole remaining coal-burning power plant at Ratcliffe-on-Soar in less than six months, according to the Observer.

The power station, on a site in the size of the City of London in Nottinghamshire in the English midlands, has been generating electricity for more than 50 years. But it will close in September as the United Kingdom moves to keep a pledge to ban coal use. The station opened in 1968 and at one point burned 65 per cent of the coal produced by Nottinghamshire’s collieries, said the Observer.