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“Ready when you are” is the message from Allied Irish Banks to the Irish government about the long-awaited re-listing of Ireland’s largest high street bank on the stock market.
Finance minister Michael Noonan has indicated that the first window of opportunity for the initial public offering of a 25 per cent stake is between mid-May and early July.
Now, AIB chairman Richard Pym has told shareholders at the bank’s annual general meeting: “Any decision is in the hands of the minister but the bank will be ready when he decides and a successful conclusion would be another important step in the rehabilitation of AIB.”
The re-listing of AIB would be seen by the Irish government as defining proof that the Irish banking crisis is over, nearly a decade after one of the worst financial crises to hit any country began to unfold.
AIB was bailed out during the crisis to the tune of nearly €21bn, and was the second biggest casualty of the collapse of Irish banks after Anglo Irish Bank. Mr Pym told the bank’s AGM on Thursday that returning that investment remained a key ambition of the bank over time.
AIB has been valued ahead of the IPO at roughly €11bn, so there is some way to go before taxpayers get their full rescue funding back. The bank has repaid €6.5bn in capital repayments and fees so far, but it may be a political necessity for the full amount to be repaid eventually, given that the escapade cost €64bn.
Perhaps with the idea of full repayment in mind, the government has taken the unusual step of creating a special warrant that will allow it to buy a 9.99 per cent stake in AIB at any time in the decade after its stock market return for a price of up to twice the IPO price, whatever that will be.
This means that if AIB’s share price rises by, say, five times in the years ahead, the government can still buy the stake for well below that level, making an instant profit.