BoI chief Richie Boucher

Bank of Ireland is still considering a rights issue this year to take advantage of apparent investor appetite for bank equity and buy back a portion of the preference shares the government got for recapitalising the bank with €3.5bn of public money earlier in the year.

However, market rumours last week that chief executive Richie Boucher was ready to make an imminent announcement have been denied.

Public statements from the bank have all but ruled out a cash call in this calendar year, but senior sources have said privately that the possibility is still very much alive.

Executives are understood to have been encouraged by the success of the bank's two unguaranteed bond issues last month, which raised €2.5bn in funding without government backing for the first time in a year, and are prepared to move quickly if the Nama legislation is passed quickly.

Paying back the allowable €1.5bn in preference shares by the end of the year would save the bank hundreds of millions in coupon payments, which have become more expensive as its share price has risen, according to Merrion Stockbrokers.

Merrion said on Friday Bank of Ireland should try to raise at least €2bn at the earliest opportunity to start building back its reserves and get free of government control.

But some analysts believe the Irish banks will not be able to raise all they need from the markets alone.

"The banks are saying they'll try to get it privately, but there will be a call on government. How much is uncertain," said Oliver Gilvarry, head of research at Dolmen Stockbrokers.

Finance minister Brian Lenihan neglected to put a number on the banks' capital needs when he outlined the figures for Nama in the Dáil last month, but he has been clear that he wants the institutions to seek private sources first.

There has been a capital-raising bonanza across Europe as banks race to reach the new de-facto minimum level of 8% core equity, with BNP, Societe Generale, DnB Nor and Unicredito announcing their intention to hit investors for fresh capital.

JP Morgan said in a report last week that European banks would need to raise about €53bn in new capital to pay off government support and rebuild their balance sheets after two years off devastating losses and writedowns. The investment bank said Bank of Ireland and AIB were among the most exposed to capital requirements, with Bank of Ireland needing €4.7bn and AIB needing €6.8bn.