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ISEQ slips, markets on edge over Ukraine

Wednesday, March 05 12:48:25

The ISEQ slipped in to the red this morning with banks firmly in focus and as global markets remained on edge over the crisis in Ukraine.

By 12:30, the ISEQ was down 14.15 points to 5,077.39.

European shares were steady as Washington and Moscow set up talks to ease tensions over Ukraine, but companies Subsea 7 and Adidas suffered after downbeat results. The FTSEurofirst 300 was down 0.1 percent at 1,343.23 points by 1059 GMT, after two days of sharp swings.

Banks were firmly in the limelight at home with Bank of Ireland stocks marginally higher at E0.32 and AIB flat at E0.14. State-owned Allied Irish Banks more than halved its full-year loss in 2013 and returned to an operating profit as margins improved and cost cuts took hold. It cost taxpayers more than 20 billion euros to bail out AIB, the most given to any lender that survived Ireland's debt crisis. The bank has shut branches and is cutting almost a fifth of its staff as it tries to return to profit by the end of the year. Excluding a provision of 1.9 billion euros for impaired loans, down a quarter on a year ago, the bank made an operating profit of 445 million euros in a year its chief executive described as one of steady progress. "We remain focused on sustainable growth and returning to profitability during 2014," said Chief Executive David Duffy. "Notwithstanding the ongoing challenges facing the bank, we are more optimistic for the outlook of both the bank and the Irish economy."

"Allied Irish Banks has reported a pre-provision profit of E445m for 2013, representing a welcome E769m turnaround on 2012. Non-performing loans and provisions are both heading in the right direction, while the bank signals that it will provide further guidance on its capital structure during 2014," said Davy.

ARYZTA delivers first half results next Monday. "H1 should mark another period of progress for ARYZTA Food Group, with 13.7pc EBITA growth driven by margin enhancement (+40bps) and acquisition (Klemme). Underlying growth remains modest. FX remains a significant headwind. A step change in absolute cash conversion is in sight as the internal investment programme nears completion," said Davy. The Irish-Swiss bakers' shares climbed 80c to E60.70.