Bank of Ireland lending to businesses in North up by a third to £1bn

BANK of Ireland lent more than £1bn to businesses in the North last year – up by a third.

The bank said the growth took place across small, medium and large businesses.

Overall, small company lending saw a 22pc increase in 2016. And the bank said that, “despite the headwinds”, demand for agri-business was also up – including farmers and other food producers.

The boost to its loan book comes just days after First Trust announced it was closing 15 branches – slashing its network in half. The Brexit vote and the impact on sterling has affected Bank of Ireland, which has significant operations in the North and Britain, where it has a partnership with the British Post Office.

Business in the North and Britain accounts for 40pc of its assets.

Bank of Ireland last week reported €1.071bn (£910m) profits for the year to the end of December, down from €1.2bn (£1.02bn) the previous year.

It announced that it will not pay shareholders a dividend until 2018. The bank said it had taken the decision to award dividend payments to shareholders after the end of the 2017 financial year.

Richie Boucher, the bank’s ceo, said the overall impact of the Brexit vote had yet to have a wider negative effect.

Mr Boucher told the Sunday Independent that the bank had yet to see any material sign of credit distress “in the obvious places that you’d expect – retail and hospitality in the border counties and the food and agriculture”.

Ian Sheppard, regional director NI, Bank of Ireland, said growth has been based right across the sectors.

“We welcome the sustained increase in activity and are delighted with the continued growth in lending approvals,” said Mr Sheppard.

“We are particularly pleased to welcome new customers as it shows we have the people, the products, the services and the funds to provide local businesses with the broad range of support they need to grow.

“Growth has come from all segments in the past year, which underlines the resilience of local businesses to not only navigate their way through uncertain times, but to tenaciously find new ways of adding value and growing their operations.

“Lending approvals to small business were up 22pc year-on-year and, despite the headwinds, demand for agri-lending also increased.

“Farmers and food producers, like many businesses, rely on strong working partnerships. Our local branch network and local sector experts – such as agri and commercial finance – have played a vital role in building relationships that work for our customers.”
Article Source: