Speculation continues that AIB may sell stake in Polish bank

AIB has declined to comment on continuing speculation that it may be on the verge of selling its 70% controlling stake in Polish bank, Bank Zachodni WBK.

For some time, the disposal of one or other of AIB’s main overseas interests – either in Poland or its 25% stake in M&T Bank in the US – has been speculated upon as a way of raising further funds for the group, but management has consistently played down the possibility.

However, AIB’s reaction to the Government’s NAMA proposals, on Wednesday, included word that it now intends to raise about €2 billion in fresh capital over the next 12-18 months. It said it could do this by a number of means – through increased private investment, potentially selling a minority stake in the group or through the disposal of certain assets.

“We are confident that one or more of these sources will increase our capital to a level that will satisfy stakeholders through the trough of this economic cycle,” the bank said on Wednesday.

A spokesperson refused to comment further, yesterday, on which specific route might be taken. Nevertheless, the mention of the potential for asset sales and business disposals boosted Bank Zachodni’s share price in Poland by 5.3% yesterday – its strongest daily rise in nearly a year.

No comments were coming from the Polish bank either, yesterday. But one Polish-based analyst – Michal Sobolewski of Warsaw-based brokerage, IDM SA – was quoted as saying: “A potential takeover would mean a premium for investors. It [AIB] doesn’t have many other assets to sell.”

In its earlier statement, AIB said of its business disposal options, that it has “a range of assets, which extends across geographies and business lines in respect of which we believe there is strong third party interest”.

It added that all of its business divisions were under review and any decision to retain or dispose of any asset “will be based on a number of criteria including strategic rationale, likely sales proceeds, capital impact, funding and earning effects”.


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