AIB has confirmed that it has received an approach from a Canadian bank about the possibility of taking a minority stake in AIB Group.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is believed to be the bank that has made the approach to the Government and AIB.

However, AIB said any talks were preliminary and were not expected to progress until there was greater clarity on other issues, such as the National Asset Management Agency.

CIBC is one of Canada's biggest banks, with around 40,000 employees worldwide. It has more than 1,000 branches across Canada.

Shares in Irish banks jumped this morning following reports that a major Canadian bank had made an approach to AIB.

Latest Irish bank share figures here

It is understood that the conditional approach to AIB was made in the past fortnight.

Canadian banks, which are among the strongest in the world, have been buying assets outside Canada since the onset of the financial crisis.

The Canadian banking system has been more resilient than those in many other big economies.

The country's banks have not had to be recapitalised, supported by guarantees, or given help with toxic assets.

Irish banks will be more attractive to international buyers once their property loan portfolios are taken over by NAMA.

Ulster Bank: Worst of NI downturn over

Meanwhile, one of the main banks in Northern Ireland has claimed that the worst of the economic downturn there is over.

However, Ulster Bank also warned that Northern Ireland's recovery will lag behind that of Britain.

The bank says that major obstacles lie ahead, and the biggest challenge would be to recover the significant amount of employment lost during the recession.

It also said it would take 'several years' to get back to pre-recession levels of economic growth.