Irish Permanent offers free shares on road to market

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THE Irish Permanent, Ireland's largest building society, has announced its long-awaited conversion to a public company, allocating 84 million free shares or cash to 327,000 savers and borrowers.

A further 36 million new shares will be floated on Dublin and London markets to raise a projected Ir pounds 50m ( pounds 48m). Approval will be sought from society members at the agm on 23 March.

Savers who invested with the Permanent continuously from 23 February to 23 March this year, with a minimum balance of Ir pounds 100 since 1 July 1993, will receive 300 free shares each with an expected total value of at least Ir pounds 350m.

Borrowers over the same period with loans of at least Ir pounds 500 outstanding on 23 March this year will receive the same allocation. Members not qualifying for shares will receive cash up to Ir pounds 200.

Progress towards plc status suffered a setback when it was revealed last year that Edmund Farrell, the former executive chairman, was under investigation over allegations that society funds had been improperly used in the purchase and furnishing of a luxury home in Dublin.

Roy Douglas, chief executive, told the Independent yesterday that the society was proceeding with legal action to recover Ir pounds 1.3m from Dr Farrell, who is counter-suing the Permanent for more than Ir pounds 4m. The case is expected to come to court before the end of the year.

The society also announced record pre-tax profits in 1993, up 35 per cent to Ir pounds 29m, alongside asset growth of 21 per cent to pounds Ir2.7bn.