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Bank of Ireland looking at offers for Bristol & West branch network

Bank of Ireland is looking at the sale of the non-mortgage elements of Bristol & West with plans to shed B&W’s 97 UK branches.

In a review of its UK businesses, BoI says it has had interest in the branch network and deposit base. It is believed that Alliance & Leicester could be interested in buying the network. BoI paid 600m for B&W in 1997. The book value is now understood to be around 80m.

Bristol & West stresses that only 8 per cent of its sales are through its branches, with most of its sales through IFAs.

Bank of Ireland will continue to focus in the UK on business banking, mortgages and consumer banking. Mortgage business through intermediaries would not be affected by a sell-off and would remain under the BoI umbrella.

Bank of Ireland media relations manager Anne Matthews says: “We have received a number of expressions of interest and we will be evaluating these. We have not accepted any offers.”

Alliance & Leicester director of corporate communications Stuart Hawkins says: “We never comment on market rumours.”

Bank of Ireland is expecting mortgage lending growth of 9 per cent and business lending growth of 18 per cent in 2005.

In a trading update, the bank also confirms that it will be cutting a total of 2,100 jobs as part of its drive to save 83.27m by 2009. It is expected that 400 jobs will be lost in the UK.


Equitable v E&Y case is set to open

Equitable Lifes negligence claim against its former auditors Ernst & Young opens in court on April 11. The fight has been ongoing since 2001 when Equitable launched a claim for over 2bn against the accountancy firm. E&Y is accused of signing off the firms accounts without warning of the impending crisis over guaranteed annuity rates. […]

Independent view

With Chancellor Gordon Brown delivering what may be his final Budget two weeks ago, we have become accustomed to studying the small print to ascertain what alterations are really to be implemented.

Strong dollar can be a powerful driver of UK dividend growth in 2015

By Robin Geffen, fund manager and CEO 

This year threatens to be a challenging one for UK dividend hunters. Last year saw an all-time record amount paid out in UK dividends — some £97.4bn, according to research from Capita Dividend Monitor. Yet as Capita also pointed out, out the biggest single factor driving the growth in the fourth quarter of last year was easy to identify: the rising US dollar. 

In our view, this trend is much more than simply a one-quarter phenomenon. It is actually the most profound issue to get right as a UK equity income investor in 2015. We believe that the US dollar will continue to strengthen significantly from its current level. This is due more to the US economy’s demonstrable de-coupling from the rest of the world than to a view on the UK. The US has a strong chance of tightening monetary conditions this year without jeopardising growth or de-stabilising its housing market. The same can unfortunately not be said about the UK.


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