AIB chief sees ‘strong investor appetite’ for share sale

State-owned AIB has attracted “very significant investor appetite” in recent months as it courted potential investors ahead of the Government’s announcement on Tuesday that it plans to sell an initial 25 per cent stake, according to the lender’s chief executive.

“We’ve spent quite a lot of time in the early part of the year testing investor appetite,” Bernard Byrne, who has led the bank for the past two years, said in an interview with RTE Radio on Wednesday morning. “We’ve got a good story to tell.”

AIB, which required a €20.8 billion bailout between 2009 and 2011, has since returned €6.6 billion of cash, including repayment of debt-like investments, interest and fees attached to the Government’s guarantee of the financial system during the financial crisis. The 25 per cent stake sale, expected to be completed in four weeks’ time, could raise up to an additional €3 billion, according to analysts.

The bank returned to profit in 2014 for the first time in six years, helped as it began to free up some of the money previously set aside for bad loans.

“The bank is operating positively again, with a consistent performance,” said Mr Byrne. “The Irish economy is strong and investors like that.”

AIB is “now within touching distance” of being in a position to return all of taxpayers cash put into the bank, Mr Byrne said, noting that the Government’s most recent official valuation on the company last year was €11.3…

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