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Allied Irish to launch rights issue in 2010

City A.M. Reporter
Allied Irish Banks yesterday confirmed plans to launch a rights issue in the second half of 2010 as it seeks to catch up with Bank of Ireland in the race for fresh capital and minimise state ownership.

Bank of Ireland this week became the first of five Irish lenders to tap markets looking to plug the holes left after a “bad bank” scheme and meet new regulatory requirements by the end of the year.

Allied Irish, which needs to raise €7.4bn (£6.4bn), almost three times as much as its main rival’s shortfall, plans to sell its UK business, its majority stake in Poland’s Bank Zachodni WBK and a minority stake in M&T Bank in the United States.

It wants to move ahead with the asset sales before launching a rights issue and asking the state to provide any residual capital, though the asset sales can already count towards its capital even if deals are not finalised this year, it said. “We have no option but to sell those assets,” chairman Dan O’Connor told a shareholder meeting on yesterday.

“It’s not going to be a fire sale, we are not rushed into having to have these businesses sold in the next few months,” said O’Connor, whose predecessor had eggs thrown at him at a meeting called a year ago to approve its government bailout.

Years of excessive lending by banks and a soaring budget deficit last year took Ireland close to a market attack similar to the one pounding Greece this year and Irish bonds and shares remain some of the most vulnerable in the eurozone.

Allied Irish, which needs to compensate for losses on loans sold to the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), the bad bank, could launch a rights issue around September or sometime in the second half, O’Connor said. That made it unclear at the moment how big a stake the government would ultimately end up with, he added.

Allied Irish will next month give the government ordinary shares in lieu of a coupon payment on the state’s €3.5bn preference share holding, which can’t be made in cash due to an EU ruling.