User Menu

New government must prioritise AIB, says Michael Noonan

Decision must be made on whether to have AIB share sale by end of year, says Minister

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan: “No irretrievable decision has been taken yet to go ahead [with an AIB share sale] in the final quarter in the year, but we’ll have to take a decision in the early days of the government to meet the timelines.’’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

One of the first tasks facing a new government is deciding whether to push ahead with a share sale in Allied Irish Banks by the end of this year, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said yesterday.

Mr Noonan, who had previously indicated his preference to sell a 25 per cent stake 99.8 percent state-owned AIB in the second half of 2016, commented on AIB as he said that a Fine Gael-led government could be formed within weeks, with talks with Fianna Fail “moving in the right directon”.

“No irretrievable decision has been taken yet to go ahead [with an AIB share sale] in the final quarter in the year, but we’ll have to take a decision in the early days of the government to meet the timelines,’’ he told reporters yesterday on his way to address an Ireland Strategic Investment Fund conference.

“Obviously markets haven’t been as strong as they were last year. We’ll only sell in a strong market as we want to get full value for the Irish taxpayers,’’ he said.

AIB made the first €1.6 billion instalment in December on repaying its almost €21 billion taxpayer bailout during the financial crisis.

Mr Noonan said that the next government would take financial advice on a possible sale of the state’s remaining 14 percent stake in Bank of Ireland after completing an initial share sale in AIB. He doesn’t envisage a further share sale in Permanent TSB, where the government retains a 75 percent stake, ``in the short term.’’

Meanwhile, the minister said that political uncertainty since the general election in February and concerns over the UK exiting the European Union haven’t impacted market sentiment towards Ireland, or its ability to attract foreign direct investment.

“”There is no perceived change in market sentiment towards Ireland either from the election results, the lack of a government or Brexit,’’ said Mr Noonan. “But we have been watching it on all fronts and it is not delaying foreign direct investment. The pipeline is strong.”