Bank of Ireland to divest US property lending arm

The Irish bank has hired HFF to sell a portfolio of $1.5 billion in performing US commercial real estate loans. The sale, which also includes the portfolio’s management team, is the latest effort to shore up the bank’s balance sheet.

The Bank of Ireland has put its US property lending business up for sale and has hired Holliday Fenoglio Fowler (HFF) to market it.

According to the Bank of Ireland, its American property business consists of $1.5 billion in performing real estate loans backed by a mix of commercial properties located primarily in New York City, Washington DC and Boston. The sale of the business also includes the portfolio's seven-person management team.

Paul McDonnell, head of the global property finance book at Bank of Ireland, said in a statement: “The US property finance business is a high performing and profitable book of assets to leading sponsors and is managed by a talented group of experienced professionals.” Both the Bank of Ireland and HFF declined to comment further.

The Bank of Ireland's decision to divest its US property lending arm comes on the heels of the disposal of its European property management unit earlier this month. Kennedy Wilson, a Los Angeles-based real estate investment and services firm, purchased that business, which is valued at €1.6 billion, for an undisclosed sum. 

The spate of asset sales is the result of a government-sponsored bailout of the Bank of Ireland in the wake of the global financial crisis. The bank, in which the Irish government holds a 36 percent stake, so far is the country's only lender to avoid falling into majority state control after a nationalisation of most of the sector to stop it from collapsing under the weight of loan losses. In return for the bailout funds, the Irish government is requiring the bank to bolster its capital reserves and raise €5.2 billion by the end of July.