Might AIB’s search for CFO further delay State stake sale?
Cantillon: Rapport between AIB’s top two executives played particularly well with analysts and investors
Mark Bourke, AIB’s chief financial officer, has given the bank notice of his intention to stand down early next year. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times
Mark Bourke arrived in AIB a little over four years ago just as the bank was turning a corner. But the new chief financial officer knew he’d be stretching it if he claimed to be in any way responsible as the bank confirmed a few months later it had returned to profit for the first time since the financial crisis.
The following March, the former PwC tax partner and one-time chief executive of Dublin-listed financial services firm IFG thought it was time to step forward – as AIB unveiled a €1.1 billion pre-tax profit for 2014, having swung from a €1.7 billion loss for the previous year.
“It is a bit of a stretch, even after six months, but I really do want to be associated with these results,” Mr Bourke told analysts at the time. “And you’ll understand why.”
By that stage, however, his then chief executive, David Duffy, had already signalled he was leaving the bank to take over as head of the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank Group (CYBG).
But Mr Bourke would go on to become a successful double act with Mr Duffy’s successor, Bernard Byrne, who had been head of retail banking at AIB. After all, both knew each other well from their PwC days.
The rapport between AIB’s top two executives is said to have played particularly well with analysts and investors as the bank courted international markets ahead of its initial public offering (IPO) last year, when the State sold a 28.8 per cent stake in the bank for €3.4 billion. It brought to about €10 billion the amount of cash returned to taxpayers by the bank since its €20.8 billion crisis-time rescue.
While there had been talk earlier this year that the Government may move, before 2018 is out, to sell an additional AIB stake, the fact that the shares are down 13 per cent so far this year and trading at an almost 5 per cent discount to how the bank values its own assets suggests that a transaction is not imminent.
The Government might also be doubly reticent about selling more shares until AIB finds a replacement for Mark Bourke – who has given the bank notice of his intention to stand down early next year – especially as his second-in-command, Myles O’Grady, also left recently.