An American billionaire has described his investment in one of Ireland’s ailing banks as his ‘best ever’.
Wilbur Ross led a consortium which paid over $1.5billion for a 10 per cent stake in Bank of Ireland at the height of the Irish banking crisis.
The Irish Independent reports that he has praised the investment in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
Now a Bank of Ireland board member, he said Bank of Ireland and the Irish economy were performing far better than forecast when the banking system was ‘stress tested’.
Ross said: “I think Bank of Ireland is turning out to be a really good investment.
“Shares in the bank have risen by about 80 per cent since myself and other North American investors bought into the bank in 2011.”
The paper says that Ross and Canada’s Prem Watsa led a 2011 investment by North American funds into Bank of Ireland that effectively saved the bank from nationalisation.
The five funds bought a combined 35 per cent stake in the bank at 10 cents per share.
Those shares closed at 18.1 cents each on Monday, up slightly on the day and valuing Ross’s almost 10pc stake in Bank of Ireland at more than $700m.
Ross added that he invested in Ireland because of the modern high-tech economy here, including the huge role that modern pharmaceuticals and internet companies play here.
He said: “Unlike other distressed European economies Ireland did not need structural reforms.
“Ireland has proper labour laws. Ireland didn’t need structural reform, all it needed was to fill the hole left by the banking crisis.”
The US billionaire also revealed that he sees Spain as another investment opportunity because the country was now following Ireland in beginning ‘to come to grips’ with its financial crisis.
He said: “I’m going to Spain later on this week because, I think, Spain too has a real economy.
“It’s got terrible problems, 27pc unemployment and a banking system that I think is just beginning to recognise the severity of its problems.”
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