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Ireland to repay last of IMF bailout loans to cut interest bill

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland is to seek early repayment of 5.5 billion euros of loans taken under its 2010 EU-IMF bailout and hopes to save around 150 million euros by refinancing the money at cheaper rates, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said on Thursday.

As part of the deal, the government plans to repay the last of its bailout debt to the International Monetary Fund of 4.5 billion euros, Donohoe said.

The loans were part of a 64 billion euros ($77 billion) EU-IMF bailout taken by Ireland after a property crash triggered a banking crisis in a bailout program that forced the government to impose years of painful austerity.

“This is a sign that we’re putting our dark days in the past,” Donohoe told reporters.

The government will also seek to repay 600 million euros owed to Sweden and 400 million to Denmark in bilateral loans that were part of the bailout package.

But Donohoe said he would not seek early repayment of a British bilateral bailout loan as its fixed terms would not allow for any savings.

In 2014 and 2015 Ireland made similar moves to reduce the cost of its debt through the early repayment of its more expensive IMF bailout loans, replacing the debt with funds raised at cheaper market rates to save around 1.5 billion euros.

In addition to interest savings, the current transaction will provide liquidity benefits and increase the ECB’s purchase capacity for Irish government bonds in its quantitative easing program, the Finance Ministry said.

Ireland has been keen in recent months to issue new debt to replenish the scarce pool of Irish debt eligible for the European Central Bank’s bond-buying program.

The ECB cut its monthly purchases of Irish bonds earlier this year after nearing a self-imposed limit of holding 33 percent of any country’s debt, a pressure Ireland can help alleviate by issuing new eligible debt.

Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Alison Williams