Richie Boucher: recapitalisation plan unlikely to succeed

Bank of Ireland's €2.2bn recapitalisation target appears to still be out of reach despite a successful debt buyback last Friday which resulted in a better-than-expected capital gain of €700m.

Analysts said chief executive Richie Boucher's plan to raise the bank's re­quired capital from liability management, existing shareholders and private sources was unlikely to succeed, as the bank restructuring timetable set out in the bailout programme would delay the bank's return to the capital markets.

"The easiest move is to get rid of assets, but buyers know there is a tight deadline and won't pay a decent price," said NCB bank analyst Ciaran Callaghan. "The other option is to raise equity privately, but who will give them equity if they don't know the shape of the business in the future."

Callaghan said the bank's funding profile was key to future investment, but the Central Bank won't complete its prudential liquidity assessment of the banks before the end of the first quarter in March. That is after Bank of Ireland's February deadline to hit a minimum capital level of 12%.

The IMF also warned in a report on Ireland last week that access to capital markets might take longer than expected under the terms of the bailout.

Although Bank of Ireland managed to achieve a 93% take-up of its junior debt buyback offer, netting a €700m capital boost, analysts said the bank was running out of room to manoeuvre as the Central Bank still required a certain level of junior debt as "buffer" capital in case equity had to absorb further losses. They warned the bank might need to raise further capital after a planned stress test in March.