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Bank of Ireland Soars as Flowers Eyes Irish Assets

Bank of Ireland Plc, the country’s largest bank, soared in Dublin trading as J. Christopher Flowers, founder of New York private-equity firm J.C. Flowers & Co, signaled he is continuing to look for Irish banking assets.

Bank of Ireland rose 4.3 euro cents, or 13 percent, to 36.40 cents at the close of trading in Dublin. Allied Irish Banks Plc gained 10 percent to 37.80 cents. Flowers said in a Bloomberg interview on Dec. 3 that “if we can find the right opportunity to invest in Ireland, we would like to do that.” J.C. Flowers had been bidding for Irish lender EBS Building Society, two people with knowledge of the talks said on Sept. 8.

A stake in Allied Irish or Bank of Ireland, the country’s biggest lenders, may be attractive depending on government guarantees on potential losses from toxic assets, Flowers said in a Financial Times interview today. He also said that buying asset portfolios at discounts with government support might be a more appealing investment in the short-term.

Ireland’s government said on Nov. 28 that banks will be required to run down non-core assets, securitize or sell portfolios or divisions, with indemnities provided by the state if needed. The move is part of a bailout Ireland agreed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan has said that some of the 10 billion euros ($13.3 billion) to be allocated to banks from the bailout will be in the form of “credit enhancements,” or loan-loss indemnities, to help banks dispose of assets.

“Potential acquirers are likely to want to purchase” Irish banking “assets at a discount to book value even with the loan loss guarantees, and this could drive up further capital requirements in Irish banks,” said Ken Darmody, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers, in a note to clients today.

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