What happens to Bank of Ireland’s U.S. leveraged finance biz?

November 29, 2010, 11:32 PM UTC

Bank of Ireland (IRE) got itself a bailout of the weekend, with the European Union and International Monetary Fund agreeing to backstop the bank’s efforts to raise nearly €2.2 billion by February.

BoI hasn’t provided specifics as to where the new money will come from, beyond promising “a combination of internal capital management initiatives, support from existing shareholders and other capital markets sources.”

Here in the U.S., some are wondering what this all means for the firm’s 30-person leveraged finance team (offices in Chicago and Stamford, Conn). Will it just be business as usual, or could the group be shuttered or spun out as part of the race to €2.2 billion.

The answer, of course, seems to depend on who you ask.

Rival bankers claim the group has been blacklisted by private equity sponsors who fear future instability. After all, you don’t want to launch a six-month process with a partner that might be gone by spring.

Normally I’d chalk up such sentiment to competitive opportunism, except that some members of the U.S. leveraged finance group have begun looking for new work. For example, what follows is the beginning of an e-mail sent by a current BoI staffer to a potential employer:

“The pending nationalization of Bank of Ireland means international businesses such as ours are likely to be shut down and I must reluctantly begin to consider other opportunities.”

To be clear, this weekend’s plan does not necessarily nationalize Bank of Ireland (although it could, depending on how much of the backstop is tapped).

Moreover, a senior source within the U.S. operation insists that the doomsday scenario is overblown. (Sorry, no one will talk on the record.)

He says that there are no known plans to shut down or spin off the U.S. leveraged finance group, and that it is nearing completion on a pair of new assignments (one of which is with a “major” private equity firm). If people were sending out resumes last week, he adds, they should be reeling them back in today.