Full text of Goverment release


Following on from Government decisions of November 28th and December 14th on the recapitalisation of financial institutions, the Minister for Finance has this evening announced specific decisions in relation to three major financial institutions.

Commenting on the announcement; The Taoiseach said: “The objective of these decisions is to ensure that the financial system in Ireland meets the everyday financial needs of individuals, businesses and the overall economy. As part of this recapitalisation package, I am very pleased that a number of measures to support small to medium businesses and mortgage holders have also been announced.”

In relation to Anglo Irish Bank, the Minister for Finance announces an initial investment of €1.5 billion of core tier 1 capital to assist in restructuring the bank’s capital. The Government will continue to reinforce the position of Anglo Irish Bank and will make further capital available if required so that it remains a sound and viable institution. The investment will be in the form of €1.5 billion of perpetual preference shares with a fixed annual dividend of 10 per cent. The preference shares carry 75 per cent of the voting rights of Anglo Irish Bank. The investment is subject to the approval of the ordinary shareholders at a general meeting which will be convened as soon as possible. On the basis of positive contact with the European Commission, the Minister said he was confident that the Anglo proposal will meet with EU State Aid requirements when formally notified in due course.

Good progress continues to be made in the capital discussions with other institutions. In particular, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, the Government has agreed with Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks plc that they will each issue €2bn of perpetual preference shares to the State with a fixed annual dividend of 8 per cent. These shares will have voting rights in respect of change of control and any changes in the capital structure. They will also confer 25 per cent of the voting rights in respect of appointments of directors and 25 per cent of the directors on the board, currently including any directors to be appointed in connection with the Government’s Guarantee Scheme.

All the institutions may redeem the preference shares within 5 years at the issue price or after 5 years at 125 per cent of the issue price. The preference shares are non-convertible and will be treated as core tier 1 capital by the Financial Regulator and are replaceable only with other core/equity tier 1 capital.

The capital injection for Anglo Irish Bank is likely to take place following an Extraordinary General Meeting in mid-January, and for Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland, by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

The Government has a substantial pool of additional capital available to underwrite and otherwise support the issuance of core tier 1 capital by the relevant institutions.

The Government need not be the principal source of this additional capital and encourages each institution to access private sources of capital. Nonetheless, the Government is prepared to underwrite further issuance of core tier 1 capital and both Allied Irish Banks plc and Bank of Ireland have indicated an interest in such an underwriting in an amount of up to €1 billion each.

The measures announced today have been designed having regarded to the recent European Commission Recapitalisation Communication and are subject to State aid approval.

Credit Package

The provision of credit to the economy is the most immediate and pressing issue for business and for the Government. The future health of our economy is inextricably linked with the supply of credit and a situation where banks are unwilling or are perceived to be unwilling to lend is damaging not only for the economy but also for the banks themselves. Banks have an important part to play in addressing this issue and a key objective of the Government’s recapitalisation initiative is to ensure the continued flow of funds through the banks to individuals and businesses in the real economy.

In response to my earlier meetings with the banks many had already announced specific programmes to boost lending to small and medium enterprises. AIB and Bank of Ireland have announced new business support and start up funds and have provided commitments to support first time buyers and consumers. While these announcements are welcome the Government believes that it is appropriate as part of the agreed recapitalisation programme that the banks should further build on the commitments given in the banks guarantee scheme through specific credit policies targeted at small medium enterprises, first time buyers and consumers generally.

The recapitalisation announced today will provide the banks with the stability required to continue to lend to meet the needs of the Irish economy. The banks will be expected to contribute to the economy in a verifiable manner in relation to credit and in relation to the maintenance of a payments system which is socially inclusive. They will be expected to adopt an approach to customer relationships in a way which recognises that customers need support through difficult as well as good times.

The banks assure the Government that they will continue to grow lending to small and medium sized enterprises and have agreed to the following credit package:

*  Small and Medium Enterprises: The recapitalised banks will provide at least an additional 10% capacity for lending to small to medium enterprises in 2009 from which lending will be subject to demand from viable enterprises. (SMEs are to be defined in accordance with the requirements under EU State aid Regulations.)

* Code of practice for business lending: Business lending by the recapitalised banks will be supported by a new code of practice for business lending which will be developed by the Financial Regulator. The recapitalised banks have committed to work closely with the Financial Regulator and the IBF to develop this code which will be introduced before end of January 2009. The code will provide for issues such as appropriate notice before change of banking facilities, arrangements to work with small businesses in difficulty and reassurance that sustainable and productive business propositions will not be declined loan facilites.

* Mortgages/First time buyers: The recapitalised banks will provide an additional 30% capacity for lending to first time buyers in 2009. Take up will be subject to demand and the banks have committed to actively promote mortgage lending at competitive rates with increased transparency on the criteria to be met.

* Mortgage Arrears: The banks will take action to assist householders who are in arrears. The recapitalised banks already comply fully with the voluntary IBF Code on mortgage arrears and repossession and refer customers to the Money, Advice and Budgeting Service where appropriate. The banks have confirmed that those in default on their home loans will treated with respect and that they will work with mortgage holders to ensure that repossession is truly an option of last resort. Furthermore the recapitalised banks have confirmed to Government that they will wait at least six months from the time arrears first arise before the enforcement of any legal action on repossession of a customer’s primary residence.

* Basic bank account: The recapitalised banks have committed to broaden the provision of basic or introductory bank accounts and will promote these accounts to socio-economic groups where the holding of bank accounts is less prevalent and to those who find that a current account does not suit their basic banking needs. The Department of Social and Family Affairs will continue its engagement with the financial institutions with a view to increasing availability and demand for basic bank accounts. Each bank can develop the form of its basic bank account in discussion with the Financial Regulator and in all cases it will provide cash card facilities. In support of this initiative the Government will arrange that stamp duty will not apply to cash cards for basic bank accounts. Detailed targets for basic bank accounts will be negotiated with each institution.

* Environmental Improvements: Each recapitalised bank will introduce a ¤100m fund to support environment friendly investments with a view to reducing energy usage, facilitating switching to renewable energies with a view to reducing Ireland’s carbon footprint.

* Financial education: The recapitalised banks will provide funding and other resources, in cooperation with the Financial Regulator, to support and develop financial education for consumers and potential consumers. The resources to be made available will take account of the Financial Regulator’s Financial Capability Study and the Report of the Steering Group on Financial Education.

* Customer Communications: The recapitalised banks will continue to improve the transparency of the terms and conditions of products, of charges, of marketing and of sales processes and procedures. Proposals in this regard will be submitted to the Financial Regulator in January 2009.