AIB: may have to sell stake in Aviva's life and pensions business

AIB will be told to sell AIB Investment Managers and its joint venture stake in Aviva's life and pensions and health insurance businesses when the EU delivers its verdict on the bank's business plan later this year, according to market sources.

"It's a reasonable assumption that AIB will have to sell those businesses given what Bank of Ireland had to do," said one broker source who asked not to be named for regulatory reasons. "They'd be the obvious ones. The days when AIB could pick and choose are gone."

Bank of Ireland is being forced by the European Commission to sell Bank of Ireland Asset Management, New Ireland Assurance and ICS Building Society to comply with state aid restrictions following its recapitalisation by means of taxpayers' money last year.

AIB has already committed to sell its stakes in BZWBK in Poland, M&T in the US and AIB (UK), but sources said the EU would probably tell it to pare down its Irish business by getting rid of separate third-party distribution lines under different brand names.

An AIB spokesman said the bank had no indication yet from the commission about what businesses it would have to sell. A spokeswoman for Aviva said it had an "excellent working relationship" with AIB.

Other commentators doubted whether the EU would force AIB to do more than it has already proposed under an extensive capital generation programme which involves selling its profitable Polish, US and British businesses.

"How much more pain can the commission expect them to take?," asked Oliver Gilvarry, head of research at Dolmen Stockbrokers.