By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The state-owned ICC Bank, which is expected to be sold later this year, has reported its most profitable year since it was set up in 1933 to promote economic growth in the country.
It reported that the group’s 1998 profit before taxes was up 30.7 percent, to £21 million , and total group assets up by 29 percent, to £2.1 billion.
During the year ICC, which changed its name from the Industrial Credit Corporation in 1992, completed a total of £15.5 million new venture capital investments, advanced about £1.4 billion to customers and had a total dividend payout of £3.6 million, up from £2.5 million in 1997.
The good figures will increase its attractiveness to potential purchasers, which are reported to include the Bank of Ireland, the Bank of Scotland, Irish Life and Permanent, and Inter-Continental Bank.
Several other international banks are also thought to be interested.
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Chairman Phil Flynn said the first essential criteria for a buyer will be the ability to replace the state guarantee.
"It has to be capable of instilling the same confidence in the markets and with our customers as a state guarantee," Flynn said. "That is essential. Any expression of interest that can’t meet that will fall at the first fence."
He said there were other aspects of the state’s involvement, such as guarantees of employment to over 300 staff and no compulsory redundancies, which will also have to be satisfied.
The staff are also seeking a shareholding in the bank of up to 15 percent, but Flynn did not believe that would be a stumbling block for the sell-off, though it obviously would affect the price.