Bloomberg News

Billionaire Denis O’Brien Says Would Invest in Bank of Ireland

January 29, 2012

Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Denis O’Brien, the Irish telecommunications and media billionaire, said he would invest in Bank of Ireland Plc, as it has “cleaned up its balance sheet.”

“Bank of Ireland has taken the medicine,” said O’Brien in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Maryam Namezee today at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. While Irish banks have written down their assets to market values and been recapitalized, “other banks around Europe haven’t done a mark-to-market.”

Irish taxpayers pumped about 62 billion euros ($81.5 billion) into the country’s largest six lenders, and the banks have sold risky real-estate loans to the National Asset Management Agency, a so-called bad bank. At the same time, Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who said yesterday that “mad borrowing” lay behind the country’s crash, is cutting spending to narrow the deficit.

“We have taken the cod liver oil,” said O’Brien, ranked as Ireland’s wealthiest man in the 2011 Sunday Times Rich List. “Ireland is definitely on the turn.”

Bank of Ireland rose 0.9 percent to 11.7 euro cents at 10:30 a.m. in Dublin, having gained 16 percent from the 10-cent price at which the lender sold shares in July and at which the government sold stock to five investors in October.

Ireland has injected a total of 4.7 billion euros into Bank of Ireland since March 2009. The state cut its stake in Bank of Ireland to 15.1 percent by selling a 34.9 percent holding last year to five investors, including Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. and WL Ross & Co., the New York-based investment firm. The bank is now the only domestic bank outside state control.

The initial wealth of O’Brien, who controls Caribbean mobile phone services Digicel Group Ltd., stemmed from the 2.4 billion-euro sale of Esat Telecom Group Plc to British Telecom Plc in 2000. He now has a 22 percent stake in Independent News & Media Plc, making him the largest shareholder in the Dublin- based newspaper group.

--Editors: Dara Doyle, Edward Evans

ANGL ID <Equity> IPM ID <Equity> BKIR ID <Equity> ALBK ID <Equity>

NI IRELAND NI BNK NI UK NI EUROPE NI BNK NI FIN NI GOV NI POL NI ECO NI IRECO

#<168254.996836.2.1.95.14779.25># -0- Jan/27/2012 10:42 GMT

To contact the reporters on this story: Joe Brennan at jbrennan29@bloomberg.net; Finbarr Flynn at fflynn3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net


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