Coming off a robust 2013 that saw them become the biggest large-cap Financial gainer of 2013, The Governor and Company of the Bank of Ireland (IRE) notched a nearly five percent gain on Jan 13, continuing a rapid march upwards that began last summer. In the last six months, Ireland’s largest bank has nearly doubled in value.
The Bank of Ireland was nearly obliterated in the 2008 crash, with shares losing almost 99 percent of their value in less than two years. A government bailout saved the company from insolvency, but shares had languished until mid-2013.
Since that time, analysts have been effusive in their praise of the bank. Eamonn Hughes of Goodbody noted Bank of Ireland is profitable for the first time since the collapse, and sporting a high asset quality while selling of an oversubscribed 10-year-bond. Comments like Hughes' stands in stark contrast to analyst consensus in 2012, when both Citi (C) and Deutsche Bank (DB) hit the Bank of Ireland with a "sell" rating.
This is an about turn for a financial institution that saw astounding returns for over a decade before collapsing. Bank of Ireland first began sporting massive returns during Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” economic turnaround, and doubled every four years during the global boom of the early 2000s, nearly touching $900 a share in Feb. 2007. By Mar 2009 those shares were worth around $12 apiece.
A reverse split in 2011 did little to spur the company, but the final shedding of toxic assets, coupled with a general recovery of the global economy, has energized the financial play. Bank of Ireland was not only the best-performing large Financial play of 2013, but so far is the biggest gainer in 2014 as well.
On Jan 13 Bank of Ireland rose 4.62 percent by midday trading to hit $18.11 a share. Shares are up 99.5 percent from six months ago.