State’s Bank of Ireland stake falls below 6%

Government has also started to sell down its bailout-era AIB stake to just below 71%

The Government's stake in Bank of Ireland has fallen below 6 per cent, as it continued to sell down its interest in the bank over the past three weeks.

The stake, held by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) on behalf of the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, fell below that threshold to stand at 5.94 per cent as of Tuesday, Bank of Ireland said in a statement to the stock exchange on Thursday.

Meanwhile, US investment management giant Blackrock, which last month became Bank of Ireland’s biggest shareholder, has increased its interest to 7.03 per cent from 6.95 per cent.

The Government has been steadily drip-feeding of Bank of Ireland shares into the market since late June, when it owned 13.9 per cent of the bank.

AIB shares

It is expected that the holding, a legacy of the bank’s crisis-era bailout, will fall to zero by the middle of this year, allowing Bank of Ireland to become the first Irish lender to return to full private ownership since the sector imploded during the financial crisis.

The Minister for Finance also started selling down his stake in AIB last month. The bank disclosed on January 20th that the State’s holding had dipped marginally below the 71 per cent level.

Bank of Ireland received a €4.7 billion rescue during the financial crisis and has since returned about €6.2 billion to taxpayers, including through the repayment of bailout bonds, share sales, dividends, coupons and guarantee fees.

The State has so far recouped about €10.8 billion of AIB's €20.8 billion bailout bill.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times