Bank of Ireland has said signs that the Irish economy improved in the second half of 2012 have continued into this year.
That upbeat assessment came as Ireland’s biggest bank announced a 40 percent drop in underlying profit for the whole of last year – which was not as bad as expected.
The only Irish lender to escape nationalisation after the country’s property crash, it has cut its work force by nine percent which it said was one factor helping its gradual recovery.
Chief executive Richie Boucher told reporters: “I think there are definitely signs that the economy is starting to grow again and definite signs that for the bank itself, all the work we’ve been putting in is starting to come through in the financial numbers.”
“If we look at our deposit books, there is cash in the economy. People are still cautious about spending, however we are certainly seeing them starting to spend on smaller ticket consumer items,” added.
Ireland’s bailed-out economy is forecast to grow for the third year in a row this year and Boucher said that while customers were still deferring bigger purchases like cars, the demand for mortgages was increasing on the back of “very clear signs of stabilisation” in the housing market.