Bank of Ireland has said it is seeing strong signs of growth in the retail, agri, motor, and property sectors after noting a 12% increase in new credit applications during the first quarter of this year.
New figures from the bank show it approved around €1.24bn in new credit to SME customers during the first three months of 2015.
This figure doesn’t include the restructuring of existing loans and marks a 24% increase on the same period last year.
In terms of new loan applications during the three months to the end of March, Bank of Ireland said it received more than 17,500, an increase of 13% on the final quarter of 2014 and a 12% rise when measured on a year-on-year basis.
“The positive growth trajectory evident in the second half of 2014 continued in the first quarter of the year, wtih signs of increased activity from a number of sectors,” said Mark Cunningham, director of business banking at Bank of Ireland.
The bank is claiming number one status in the business banking market here, with a market share of over 50%, in terms of flow of new non-property lending.
It said it continues to see signs of improved optimism in the external enviroment and, in particular, increased demand for credit in the motor, agri, property and retail sectors.
“Our outlook for the agri sector remains positive,” said Mr Cunningham.
“Annual seasonal loan requests are in line with previous years and, despite reductions in cereal prices last year, all indications are that cereal acreages will not reduce significantly in 2015.
“Increased levels of activity in the agri sector have been, primarily, driven by land purchase and farm development, as farming customers respond to the growth opportunity afforded by the abolition of milk quotas. Land purchase activity has increased and we are approving credit for approximately 500 acres on a weekly basis.”
Regarding the struggling retail sector, he added: “Convenience grocery retail and furniture/home retail operators, in particular, continue to benefit from the strengthening economic trading conditions.
“We remain committed to supporting long-term, sustainable growth plans for businesses operating within this sector and we continue to see a strong pipeline of retail-focused proposals.”
Regarding property loans, Mr Cunningham said the demand for finance this year is mainly expected to come from refinancing opportunities, “where equity funds are recycling loan portfolios that they have acquired”.
“The pick-up in activity in the property market has continued into 2015,” said Mr Cunningham.
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