Fairfax Financial, WL Ross Take 18% of Bank of Ireland

Fairfax Financial Holdings and WL Ross & Co. will each grab a 9% interest in the Bank of Ireland, following their investments this week, Reuters reported Thursday. The two firms were among the group of investors who bought a 1.1 billion euro ($1.58 billion) stake in the bank. Other investors include Boston-based Fidelity Investments and the California-headquartered firm The Capital Group.

(Reuters) – Canada’s Fairfax Financial Holdings and U.S. buyout firm WL Ross & Co will each take a 9 percent stake in Bank of Ireland following their investment this week, the Toronto-based company was quoted as saying on Thursday.

The two were among a group of investors who bought a 1.1 billion euro ($1.58 billion) stake in the bank on Monday, ensuring it would stay out of full state control, and increased their combined stake to 35 percent following the results of a rights issue on Wednesday.

Bank of Ireland named the other investors as Boston-based Fidelity Investments and the California-headquartered pairing of investment firm The Capital Group and Kennedy Wilson , a real estate company.

Fairfax Financial Chief Executive Prem Wasra told the Irish Independent newspaper that as well as its and WL Ross & Co’s near-20 percent holding, The Capital Group will take a stake of about 6 percent in the bank.

He said Kennedy Wilson will get a much smaller amount after investing 25 million euros.

Bank of Ireland declined to comment on Wasra’s remarks regarding the size of individual stakes, but a source close to the process told Reuters that they were correct.

The Fairfax CEO added the group of investors saw real value in the only Irish lender to effectively avoid nationalisation.

“We looked at the long-term future of the bank, we think it’s appropriately capitalised to deal with the stress test scenarios… We see real value here,” Wasra told the newspaper.

“The bank has an excellent disciplined credit culture. In a property and construction tsunami, no bank is spared,” he added, referring to the property crash that helped push five of Ireland’s previously six-strong banking sector either out of business or into state hands.

Wasra, who founded the Toronto-based insurer and investment company in 1985, has been dubbed as “Canada’s Warren Buffett” for past investment wins, including bets against the U.S. housing market that brought in billions when it collapsed in 2007. ($1 = 0.695 Euros)

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by David Hulmes)