* Irish fin min says is aware of interest in new entrant
* Absolutely committed to ptsb remaining part of sector
* Bank of Ireland, AIB insufficient for competition needed
By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN, March 1 Ireland would like a
"significant" new bank with a big balance sheet to enter its
lending market this year to drive competition in the diminished
sector, finance minister Michael Noonan said on Saturday.
Ireland's banking crisis, which helped push the country into
an European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout that it
completed last year, led to the closure or merger of half of the
country's domestic banks and the exit of a slew of foreign
It has also left the country with only three SME lenders of
scale, state-owned Allied Irish Banks, Royal Bank of
Scotland's Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland,
which counts the Irish state as a 14 percent shareholder.
"We are talking about a bank with a big balance sheet... A
third significant player," Noonan told reporters at his Fine
Gael party's annual conference after he said in a speech that he
would like to see a third viable bank in the country.
"I'm exploring it. I know there are people interested. In
the course of this year, it would be nice to get these things
done before banking union," he said, referring to the European
Union's plan for a more integrated banking system.
Noonan added that he absolutely wanted mortgage lender
permanent tsb (ptsb), currently the third domestic-owned
bank in the country behind Bank of Ireland and AIB, to remain
part of the banking sector.
Noonan's comments come after Flip, a proposed European bank,
kicked off formal fundraising to raise 100 million euros to
allow them cash in on Ireland's newly-concentrated banking
market and slowly recovering economy.
However Noonan said he was looking for a much bigger lender
than Flip and ptsb to enter the market and that he was sending a
signal out that there is a space to do so.
"They were talking about 100 million (euros), 100 million
wouldn't capitalise a bank," Noonan said, referring to the Flip
proposal. "The amount of money they were talking about was far
"There's a general agreement to the principle that the two
pillar banks, Bank or Ireland and AIB, are insufficient as
players in the market to give the kind of competition that a
growing economy might need."