Irish taxpayers have been eclipsed as Bank of Ireland’s biggest shareholder for the first time in almost 12 years, as the State continued to sell down its stake in the lender.
The Government's steady drip-feeding of Bank of Ireland shares into the market since late June has resulted in its stake falling to 6.93 per cent, as of Tuesday, from 13.9 per cent at the end of June.
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.
Bank of Ireland’s largest shareholder now – by a whisker – is US asset management giant Blackrock, which owns 6.95 per cent of a group.
“In just over six months, the State holding in Bank of Ireland has halved. As of today, the State is no longer the largest shareholder in the group. The ongoing sale process is a positive one for Irish taxpayers, the Irish economy and Bank of Ireland,” said Bank of Ireland chief executive Francesca McDonagh. “We welcome its momentum, and look forward to being the first Irish bank to return to full private ownership during this year.”
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said last month that he also plans to sell part of the State's 71.1 per cent remaining stake in AIB over the next six months. Analysts estimate that its holding will fall to 68-69 per cent by later in the year.