US billionaire Wilbur Ross to sell his share in Bank of Ireland

10 Jun 2014


US billionaire Wilbur Ross is to sell his entire holding in Bank of Ireland three years after his investment kept the lender from state takeover, Deutsche Bank said on Monday, even as sources indicated he would more than double his money, Reuters reported.

Ross, whose fund specialises in distressed assets, was among a group of North American investors who acquired a 35 per cent stake only months after Ireland signed up to an EU/IMF bailout.

Ross reduced his stake in March to 5.5 per cent from around 9 per cent, even as the government remained the largest shareholder with 14 per cent.

Deutsche Bank will be the sole bookrunner on the placement of Ross's 1.8 billion shares.

Reuters quoted two sources familiar with the matter as saying the shares would be priced between 26 and 27.5 euro cents each, as against the 10 cents the bank was trading when Ross acquired the stake. The value of the holding would work out to between 468 million and €495 million at that price.

The lender's share price was down at 28.4 cent from a peak of 39 euro cents earlier this year.

Ross is expected to make a healthy profit on the deal, The Irish Times reported.

He said it was definitely not a negative comment on BoI or Ireland. He added it had been a terrific investment for his fund and its investors, the report said.

He said, with continued appreciation of its bank holdings, the fund was getting so concentrated in bank that it had to cut back.

In particular, he added, European rules that limited the number of bank boards investors could sit on contributed to the decision.

The report quoted fellow investor Prem Watsa, who was also part of the 2011 consortium and who sold shares with Ross in March, as saying Ross's decision was ''entirely unrelated to the business.'' He however, pledged to hold his own 5.8 per cent stake for the long term.

He added that Bank of Ireland and Ireland were generally only beginning to see a return to their future potential.

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