The State's shareholding in Bank of Ireland has dropped below 10%, after it sold another tranche of its shares.

According to a Stock Exchange statement this afternoon, the State has reduced its shareholding in the bank from 10.96% to 9.95%.

This is the fourth sale by the state of shares in the bank since the Government announced in June that it planned to sell down part of its 13.9% shareholding over the next six months.

The state had not sold any of its Irish bank share holdings since 2017.

In total, the State put €4.7 billion into Bank of Ireland with the initial investment coming in early 2009 as the banking crisis took hold.

If the Government was to maintain its current pace of share sales it could exit Bank of Ireland entirely next year, a move that would make it the first of Ireland's bailed out banks to fully return to private ownership.

Additional reporting Reuters