Irish Nationwide flotation now on the cards but controversy remains

AS Standard Life debuted on the London stock market yesterday the prospects of an Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) flotation in Dublin moved a step closer.

It follows the passing of legislation in the Dáil that allows one of the few remaining mutual institutions in the Irish financial services sector to be sold to a private buyer or floated as a publicly quoted company.

Dissident shareholders have warned that any sell-off cannot be done at the expense of members of Irish Nationwide who have allegedly been overcharged by the building society.

Brendan Burgess, a long standing critic of the society, said if investigations into the overcharging stand up then the society could be forced to pay back “millions of euro” in compensation.

“AIB and others have suffered at the hands of the Financial Regulator and Irish Mutual will not be immune if the regulator finds against it,” he warned.

Irish Nationwide said publicly the liabilities against it will not be significant.

However Mr Burgess said yesterday “it cannot say that given that the extent of the overcharging is still under investigation by the Financial Regulator.”

Mr Burgess and others, suspicious of the society, are concerned that carpetbaggers will gain from the demutualisation process, while long-standing members will not get the restitution they are entitled to receive.

If the sale goes ahead Irish Nationwide’s 125,000 members could receive a sum of between €12,000 and €15,000 each, with that pay-out due sometime next year.

Mr Burgess and other critics of Irish Nationwide say they are unhappy with the new legislation.

The society is conservatively estimated to be worth around €1.5 billion, though some believe it could be worth closer to €2bn.

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