Wilbur Ross and Fairfax to sell 6 percent of Bank of Ireland

Tue Mar 4, 2014 9:08am EST
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By Padraic Halpin and Laura Noonan

DUBLIN/LONDON (Reuters) - Two of Bank of Ireland's (BKIR.I: Quote) largest shareholders, who helped keep it out of state hands at the height of the euro zone debt crisis in 2011, stand to more than triple their money when they sell back a part of their stake on Tuesday.

Wilbur Ross and Fairfax Financial (FFH.TO: Quote) received sufficient bids to sell a combined 6.4 percent stake on Tuesday, the only stock Fairfax says it plans to offload.

Billionaire investor Ross and Fairfax boss Prem Watsa were among a group of North American investors who bought a 35 percent stake only months after Ireland signed up to an EU/IMF bailout.

The pair, who own almost 18 percent of the bank between them, were selling at a guided price of around 0.33 euros, a discount of up to 10 percent on Monday's closing share price, a source familiar with the transaction said.

The bookbuilding was covered by 1145 GMT, the source added, and was due to close at around 1400 GMT, a second source said.

The price would represent a hefty increase on the 10 cents the group of investors, which also included Kennedy Wilson, the Capital Group and Fidelity Investments, paid for their holding.

"Bank of Ireland has been one of our most successful investments," Watsa told Reuters in an interview.

"Because of the significant appreciation, we are rebalancing our position. The position had become very significant (in terms of our overall portfolio).   Continued...

Billionaire U.S. investor Wilbur Ross poses for a photo after an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of a conference at a hotel in Singapore September 25, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Tim Chong