The Department of Finance is considering giving individuals the opportunity to buy shares in the planned initial public offering of AIB. 

In a briefing to Cabinet, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said his department was “examining options in relation to a potential retail offer which would provide individuals with the opportunity to participate in an IPO at the same price as institutional investors”.

Although the details of such an arrangement remain to be clarified, Mr Noonan said it was likely that interested retail investors would be able to apply for shares through designated intermediaries or brokers, as was the case with the Aer Lingus IPO in 2006.

He added that a minimum investment threshold will be considered, and that potential retail investors would not be offered incentives to participate.

Around a quarter of the shares in AIB are understood to be considered for sale by the department.

Minister Noonan said the key objective of an IPO would be to maximise the return for the taxpayer on its investment in AIB.

The Cabinet was also informed today that advisors have been appointed until July 2018, “which allows the flexibility to target a range of IPO windows through 2017 and into H1 2018 depending on market conditions”.

A Government spokesperson said two possible windows for the sale are being examined; May/June or the autumn.

It is expected any money raised the the sell-off will go towards reducing the national debt.

Last week AIB CEO Bernard Byrne said the bank "is now ready for an IPO, when market conditions permit and the Minister decides"

The lender is also the first of the Irish banks to restart the payment of dividends since 2008 as it proposed a €250m dividend.

Fianna Fáil Finance Spokesperson Michael McGrath welcomed the possibility of a retail offer to members of the public as part of the planned AIB IPO, but said "members of the public should do so with their eyes wide open and ensure they are fully informed of what they are buying into.

"The fact that thousands of ordinary bank shareholders lost heavily during the banking crisis will undoubtedly be a consideration for many people.

"As the main shareholder, the Government certainly shouldn't get involved in encouraging people to buy shares as it is very much a personal decision for each person to make given their own attitude to risk."