It is amazing to witness the transformation that has taken place in Ireland. In 2011, when we made our investment in the Bank of Ireland at 10 euro cents per share, 10-year Government of Ireland rates were 12%, housing prices had come down 40% and sentiment was bleak. Since then, 10-year Government of Ireland rates have dropped to 3.1%, house prices have bottomed out and have begun to rise, Ireland has access to the bond markets again and capital is flooding into Ireland! Under Richie Boucher’s strong leadership, the Bank of Ireland continues to do well as it recently refinanced its government-owned A1.8 billion preferred by doing a A580 million equity issue at 26 euro cents per share and selling the rest into the marketplace. Also, it did a A750 million unsecured five-year bond financing at 3.34%! The Irish Government has now had all its loans to the Bank of Ireland paid back and its 13.95% ownership of the common stock is in a sizeable profit position. We thank the Irish Government for its exceptional support of the Bank of Ireland and look forward to the Bank’s continued progress under Richie’s leadership.
As this letter went to print, because of the significant appreciation in our position in the Bank of Ireland, we rebalanced that position by selling a third of it at approximately 33 euro cents per share. The Bank of Ireland has been one of our most successful investments because of the outstanding performance of Richie and his management team. We continue to be strong supporters of Richie and the Bank of Ireland.