Irish bank flight quickens despite EU rescue
Deposit flight from Irish banks accelerated sharply at the end of last year on fears of political turmoil, suggesting that the EU-IMF rescue package for Ireland failed to restore confidence.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
02 Feb 2011
Irish central bank data showed losses of €40bn (£34bn) in deposits from the key banks in December, compared with €27bn a month earlier. Over the past year Irish lenders have haemorrhaged €110bn, equal to 60pc of gross national product. “Would I want to leave money in an institution where I don’t know who is making the rules?” said Gary Jenkins from Evolution Securities.
On Wednesday, Standard & Poor’s cut Ireland’s sovereign rating one notch to A-, citing a “weaker economic outlook, reduced prospects for bank earnings and funding difficulties of domestic banks”. It also downgraded Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish, Anglo Irish and Irish Life, questioning “both the ability and willingness of the Irish government” to keep propping up lenders. The quartet remain “highly reliant on central bank funding” and have been unable to raise market funds despite state guarantees.
Investors are watching warily as Ireland prepares for an election on February 25. Leading opposition party Fine Gael said it will unpick parts of the EU-IMF bail-out for Ireland, threatening to “impose losses on bondholders who lent to collapsed domestic banks”.
“Those who lent recklessly as well as those who borrowed recklessly should share the burden,” said Michael Noonan, the party’s finance chief. He exhorted the EU to cut the interest rate on rescue loans from 5.8pc to levels nearer the EU’s borrowing cost of 2.6pc
Fine Gael is likely to form a coalition with Ireland’s Labour Party, which is even tougher on creditors. All major parties are losing votes to Gerry Adam’s Sinn Fein as it taps popular fury with calls for the IMF “to go home and take their money with them”.