AIB SELLS ARK LIFE BUSINESS - AIB has sold its Ark Life subsidiary to UK-based Guardian Assurance, The Irish Times reports.

The sum has not been disclosed but market sources put it at close to €350 million. The transaction is subject to regulatory clearance and is expected to close in the first half of next year.

Ark Life’s book is in run-down. It manages assets of €4 billion and has 270,000 policies. Guardian is a specialist in managing life and pensions books in run-off and this deal will give it £17 billion in assets and 850,000 policies.

Ark Life staff were informed of the sale last week although the bank did not disclose it publicly.

AIB told said the disposal “follows the completion of a comprehensive auction sales process involving a number of international investors”.

It said the “position of Ark Life policyholders remains unchanged” as a result of the deal.


IFG SHARES FALL ON APPROACH WARNING - Shares in IFG plunged as much as 19% during early trading yesterday as the financial services company warned that a recent approach may not lead to an offer, reports The Irish Independent.

The shares eventually closed down 12.9% at €1.83 on the Dublin stock exchange where trading was light ahead of Christmas. That valued the company at just under €200m.

The shares tumbled after the company said last week's approach was "highly conditional and preliminary in its nature and that no assurances can be given that a formal offer will be forthcoming or that any transaction will occur."

Shares in Booterstown-based IFG jumped 21% last Friday when it told the markets that an approach had been made to buy the company which provides pensions and other financial services to companies and individuals in the UK and Ireland. The shares have soared in recent weeks, prompting management to make the statement.


2,700 JOBS SAVED BY EXAMINERSHIPS - The Irish Examiner reports on new figures which suggest that nearly 2,700 jobs will have been saved this year by companies opting for examinership as a way of trading out of their difficulties.

According to the latest quarterly SME Examinership Index from leading accountancy and insolvency consultancy firm, Hughes Blake, 832 jobs in SMEs were saved through examinership this year.

An additional 1,410 jobs were saved by the process in large companies, with another 449 counted as of year end.

Sixteen of the 19 businesses that successfully concluded examinership in 2013 were SMEs.

The figures come as the Government finalises legislation aimed at reducing the costs of examinership applications, with SMEs being allowed to apply via the Circuit Court rather than the High Court.

The move should see average examinership costs fall by 30% and will enable struggling firms with less than 50 employees — or a turnover of under €8.8m — to enter examinership, if needed.