The Minister for Finance has pushed the button on the sale of a 25% stake in AIB which will kick start a process that will eventually see the shares listed on the Dublin and London exchanges. 

Bernard Byrne, CEO of AIB said the process should take up to four weeks. The bank's senior executives will embark on an investor roadshow to sell the bank's story over that time.

"Today is a landmark day. The Government decision confirms that the bank is ready to move into private ownership. The proceeds will enable the state to continue to recover its investment. It's a four to five week process which is about telling the investors about the bank and the Government determining a price range for the institution," the AIB CEO said.

Mr Byrne said the bank's executives had already spent a lot of time testing investor appetite. "Investors can see the bank has been performing positively with a combination of a strong Irish economy and a growing euro zone economy. There is a significant investor appetite."

The AIB CEO said he was not concerned about the increasingly uncertain outcome of the UK general election. "Our issue is to focus on the things we can manage and control. We can manage and control the bank. I never get too concerned about the commentary around markets. The UK market will value bank stocks based on the market they operate in."

Mr Byrne said the 25% stake was likely to be sold to a wide variety of institutions, most of which would be 'long only' funds."They take a long term perspective. They'd be interested in dividend flow as a proxy for the Irish economy. I don't think it'll be a single holding," he said.

He would not be drawn on the likely price range for the initial public offering. "We have no view on share pricing. The marketing process will allow the Government to determine where the range sits. The only valuation is the €11.3 billion by the NTMA in February. That's the last formal valuation for the institution."

Bernard Byrne said he believed the state would be in "touching distance" of recovering the €21 billion it invested in the bank after the crash. "If you take the funds the state has received, €6.8 billion, and the valuation of €11.3 billion, that would put you in a range of close to €18 billion in value. With future dividends, that would put you in touching distance of returning all the funds," he concluded.

MORNING BRIEFS - Shares in the online retailer Amazon breached the $1,000 mark for the first time yesterday. The shares went as far as $1,001.20 before dropping back to close at just below $997. The company first listed shares on the New York Stock Exchange for $18 in May 1997. It is now the fourth largest company in the US with a market capitalisation of just under $480 billion.

*** The value of sterling fell overnight after a new opinion poll suggested that the conservatives could fail to win an outright majority in the election in just over a week's time. This latest poll based on YouGov research for the Times suggests a hung parliament could be the outcome - a far cry from the extension of the 17 seat majority that the Tories currently enjoy. That data suggests the Conservatives would lose between 20 to 30 of the 330 seats they now hold with Labour gaining up to 30 seats. Sterling fell by 0.5% but made back some of it as another poll from ICM gave the Conservatives a 12 point lead which would give them a comfortable seat majority.