DUBLIN, March 2 Allied Irish Banks
(AIB) became the first of Ireland's lenders to restart dividends
since the financial crash almost a decade ago, proposing a 250
million euro ($263 million) payment and saying it was ready to
IPO this year.
The 99 percent state-owned lender had been in talks with
regulators over returning a "conservative, ongoing" dividend
since last year and said on Thursday that its strong financial
results and robust capital supported the move.
Ireland's second-largest bank by assets, whose 21 billion
euro taxpayer bailout was the biggest for any Irish bank still
trading, reported a full year pre-tax profit of 1.7 billion
euros, down from 1.9 billion a year ago.
But that was primarily as a result of writing back far fewer
of its remaining and shrinking 9.1 billion euros in provisions
racked up during Ireland's financial crisis. Its writebacks
totalled 294 million last year versus almost 1 billion in 2015.
The bank's core tier one capital ratio - a measure of
financial strength - increased sharply to 15.3 percent at the
end of 2016 from 13.7 percent three months earlier.
Ireland appointed Bank of America Merrill Lynch,
Deutsche Bank and Davy Stockbrokers as global
coordinators for the potential sale of a stake in the bank
earlier this year and AIB reiterated that it was ready to go.
"The bank is now ready for an IPO, when market conditions
permit and the Minister decides," AIB chief executive Bernard
Byrne said in a statement.
Last year, Ireland pushed back the timetable for selling a
25 percent stake in AIB, citing unfavourable market conditions,
but Finance Minister Michael Noonan said last month that rising
bank share prices suggested it might get the value needed.
He has raised the possibility of launching an initial public
offering as early as May, or during another possible window in
the third quarter.
($1 = 0.9503 euros)
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Alexander Smith)