Competition watchdog highlights 'key' probes into Irish banks

Plans by AIB, Bank of Ireland, and Permanent TSB to acquire billions worth of loans from the departing Ulster Bank and KBC are under investigation
Competition watchdog highlights 'key' probes into Irish banks

As recently as New Year's Eve, the watchdog launched a Phase 2 investigation into plans revealed by AIB earlier in 2021 to take €4.2bn in loans from Ulster Bank.

The competition watchdog has signalled the importance of a number of full-scale investigations it is conducting into Irish banking, which include plans by the largest lenders AIB, Bank of Ireland, and Permanent TSB to acquire billions worth of loans from the departing Ulster Bank and KBC which are seeking to complete their withdrawal from the Republic this year. 

In its annual report, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) said three of the five active full probes, officially called Phase 2 investigations, it ordered last year relate to plans by banks.

'Dedicated significant resources'

"These have the potential to fundamentally impact on what is a key sector for the Irish economy and the CCPC has dedicated significant resources to ensuring these notifications are carefully considered," said the commission. 

As recently as New Year's Eve, the watchdog launched a Phase 2 investigation into plans revealed by AIB earlier in 2021 to take €4.2bn in loans from Ulster Bank, when the third-largest lender completes its retreat from the Republic. It is also fully investigating plans by Bank of Ireland to get €8.8bn in home mortgages from KBC. 

Experts believe that the CCPC will likely also announce a full Phase 2  probe into plans of Permanent TSB (PTSB) to get €7.6bn in loans from Ulster, in a deal that also involves Ulster-owner NatWest taking a stake of almost 17% in PTSB. 

Its third current full investigation into banking matters involves it scrutinising separate plans involving AIB, Bank of Ireland, and Permanent TSB to set up a joint venture to launch a banking payments app called Synch.

The CCPC also said that another proposed merger and acquisition deal involving "competition concerns" in banking services, the plan by Link Group to acquire Pepper in Ireland, is no longer active after the plan was dropped.

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