Mr Ross’ New York-based investment firm WL Ross & Co took a 9.9% stake in Bank of Ireland in return for its €300 million part of a combined €1.12 billion investment in the bank by a small number of private investors last week — a move that lowers the Government’s stake to 15.1% and makes BoI the only Irish bank not to be state controlled.
As well as WL Ross, international investment firms Fairfax Financial Holdings, Fidelity Investments and The Capital Group, along with property company Kennedy Wilson (which recently acquired BoI’s property management arm) invested.
Mr Ross, who earlier this year missed out on buying the EBS Building Society — which has since been subsumed by AIB — told Reuters over the weekend that Ireland’s efforts to rebuild its economy are finding a favourable reaction from overseas investors.
He said that the Government’s claim that it is ahead of target in bringing the budget deficit under control was a key ingredient in his decision to take a stake in the bank.
“I am genuinely impressed, and have been for some time, at the way Ireland bit the bullet and faced up to it,” he said.
“Unlike the Club Med economies, the former government and the present one have dealt very surgically and very quickly with the problem. The macro picture of Ireland is clearly headed in the right direction and will very likely have a more V-shaped recovery than most other European countries.
“We have gotten a lot of inquires from other investing institutions that know us, asking about Ireland and suggesting that they at least are now willing to take a much better look than they were prior to all of this.”
Mr Ross, who heads up a €6.9bn investment war-chest, also intimated that he is willing to look at other potential investment opportunities here.
“We believe in Ireland, so we will look at other assets, but this (BoI) will be a very big project,” he said.
Mr Ross also suggested that the bank — in time — can return to profitability and offer him a return on his investment.
He went on to say that Ireland’s guaranteed funding status up to 2013 puts it in an unique position.
“Since they are fully funded at sovereign level to 2013, there can’t be a Government bond auction that could be under-subscribed and precipitate a problem. There is no other country in Europe that can say they have that.”