Fairfax triples its money on Bank of Ireland stake

Canadian investor Prem Watsa and American Wilbur Ross will more than triple their money with the sale of a stake in Bank of Ireland on Tuesday.

Canadian Prem Watsa sells part of stake he bought at time of Ireland's bailout

A horse and cart passes the Bank of Ireland in central Dublin, Ireland. Bank shares have tripled in price since Fairfax Financial bought a stake in 2011. (Peter Morrison/Associated Press)

Canadian investor Prem Watsa and American Wilbur Ross will more than triple their money with the sale of a stake in Bank of Ireland on Tuesday.

Watsa, through his Fairfax Financial., and Ross through W.L Ross were among a group of North American investors who bought 35 per cent of Bank of Ireland in 2011, keeping it out of state hands during the euro zone debt crisis.

At that time, they paid about 10 cents a share. On Tuesday, they were selling a combined 6.4 per cent stake at about 0.33 euros a share. The stake was on offer to institutional investors only, according to Deutsche Bank.

Ahead of the sale Fairfax held 2.8 billion shares of Bank of Ireland or 8.7 per cent, while Ross owned 2.9 billion shares, or 9.1 per cent. They were the largest shareholders besides the Irish government, which owns 13 per cent.

"Bank of Ireland has been one of our most successful investments," Watsa told Reuters in an interview.

"Because of the significant appreciation, we are rebalancing our position. The position had become very significant (in terms of our overall portfolio).”

Watsa said he no intention of selling more of Fairfax’s stake in Bank of Ireland as he believed the bank would benefit from the ongoing recovery in Ireland.

Bank of Ireland stock dropped on Tuesday, trading at 0.32 of a euro after releasing earnings yesterday that showed it had cut its full-year loss by two thirds in 2013.

The bank returned to profit in the first two months of the year because of  improved margins and a fall in the number of homeowners in arrears.

Other investors who bought shares in 2011 included private equity firm Wilson Kennedy, which sold its stake last November, Fidelity Investments and the Capital Group.

Ireland officially exited its bailout last December and becoming the first country to pay back the $93 billion worth of emergency loans that the IMF and other European nations loaned it in 2010.

With files from Reuters


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