Shares have fallen in Bank of Ireland after the American billionaire who saved the bank from state ownership confirmed he is selling his stake – at three times the price he paid for his investment.
Investor Wilbur Ross will step down as a non-executive director of the bank after informing his brokers to sell off his remaining 5.5 percent stake.
The latest sale will net Ross almost $700 million for his remaining shares in the bank and will see his initial investment of $400million return almost $1.2 billion.
Ross told The Irish Times that his decision to sell his remaining shares has ‘nothing to do with the prospects for the Irish economic recovery or Bank of Ireland.’
He insisted “The future is bright for both. With the appreciation of both our US and European bank investment, we had too much portfolio concentration in banks, but some of our other positions were private or had trading restrictions and our investors like us to periodically distribute gains.
“Bank of Ireland has been a terrific investment for the company. I have confidence that chief executive Richie Boucher will lead the bank to a better performance in the years to come.
“I will sorely miss my involvement on the board of the bank.”
The Irish Times report outlines how Ross’s investment company WL Ross & Co was one of a group of North American investors which acquired a 34.9 percent share in Bank of Ireland in July 2011 to keep the bank out of state control.
He originally held a nine percent stake, having acquired the shares for 10 cents each, but sold a large tranche in early March to cut his holding to 5.5 percent.
Fairfax Financial chairman and chief executive Prem Watsa told Bloomberg that his company would continue to hold its shares in Bank of Ireland for the long term.
A spokesman for Bank of Ireland said: “On behalf of the board I would like to thank Wilbur for his contribution, diligence and commitment as a board member.
“Wilbur was instrumental in the success of the 2011 capital raising and throughout his tenure, we have benefited greatly from his insights.”