AIB hopes to make profit in 2014, AGM told

Even though AIB is still loss-making, it hopes to make a pre-provision profit in 2014, its chairman David Hodgkinson told shareholders at yesterday’s AGM.

The State-owned bank made an underlying pre- tax loss, excluding exceptionals, of €2.8bn in 2012 compared with an €8.1bn loss the previous year.

Even though it has a new management team, with David Duffy taking up the position of CEO in 2011, the mood among shareholders remains hostile.

The share price, which in 2006 was hovering around €22 per share, is now trading at just over €0.06 for the 0.2% which remains in free float.

The Government holds a 99.8% stake, having injected roughly €24bn into the bank since 2008.

Last October, Mr Duffy announced that the bank had written to some of its former executives asking them to surrender some of their pensions. At the AGM, one shareholder wanted to know how many executives, apart from former CEO Eugene Sheehy, have complied with this request.

Mr Hodgkinson said AIB had written to 30 former executives, but legal requirements prevented him from saying if any had volunteered all or part of their pensions.

Consumer rights advocate, Brendan Burgess wanted to know how the bank planned to tackle the mortgage arrears crisis and whether debt writedowns would form part of the solutions on offer.

In March, the Central Bank issued targets for all the banks to deal with distressed mortgage customers. AIB is exceeding these targets, said Mr Duffy.

“When a customer is co-operating and prioritising mortgage debt, we are prepared for a compromise over time that may lead to debt writedowns,” said Mr Hodgkinson.

Outgoing chief financial officer, Paul Stanley, said the bank had written off €50m of mortgage debt in 2012. About 80% of residential mortgages and 65% of the bank’s buy-to-let mortgages are performing.

Last year, AIB announced it would close 67 branches as part of a rationalisation programme that would see more services move online. A number of shareholders raised concerns that the closures had greatly reduced the quality of services in some communities.

Another shareholder wanted to know how much AIB had written off as part of Independent News & Media’s debt restructuring. Mr Duffy said it was not possible to discuss any client’s affairs.

“The syndicate of banks agreed a deal that was in the collective best interest of the banks and the company, but I cannot go any further than that.”

AIB faces stress tests in March of next year, which will determine whether it needs more capital.

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