BoI in talks to sell British real-estate portfolio

BANK of Ireland (BoI) is in talks with one party on the sale of its British commercial real-estate portfolio, according to comments contained in documents handed out to lawmakers in Dublin, ahead of Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s meetings with the Oireachtas finance committee this week meetings.

Discussions on this proposed sale of British loans had been raised by BoI chief executive Richie Boucher on August 10, when the bank had put up “elements” of its British commercial property and residential mortgage book on the market. While Mr Boucher declined to say at the time how much of the portfolio was for sale, the company’s interim report — which was published the same day — said that €1.7bn of British loans may be sold within the next 12 months.

The anticipated sale of British loans follows Bank of Ireland’s recent sale of $1.4bn (€1bn) of its US commercial real estate loan portfolio to financial services group Wells Fargo. That sale related to a portfolio of 25 loans.

Both BoI and AIB came under added pressure to come up with fresh capital this week, when the Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME), the Small Firms Association (SFA) and others refuted suggestions that the banks’ Irish lending levels were only low due to lack of demand — a case put forward in a report by the Credit Review Office (CRO) — the office of appeal set up to help small firms whose credit applications had been turned down.

The CRO report predicts the banks will fall short of the €3bn the state prescribed for each bank to help ignite a recovery in Ireland.

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