Opening Bell: AIB itching to float, KBC lowers mortgage rates, Eir arrives in Dingle

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AIB chief executive Bernard Byrne has urged the Government to return the State-owned lender to the stock markets by summer, rather than delaying until the second half of 2017.

According to the Irish Independent, Byrne made the case that all the requirements were in place for it to sell a near-€3 billion stake in the bank successfully.

Speaking after AIB's annual general meeting in Dublin yesterday, he stressed "our bias is to encourage something to happen" between mid-May and early June.

He stated:

"If you look at the things necessary to get an IPO away – an attractive equity market, business performing pretty well, the Irish economy performing well and the intention politically to get it done – they're all there. So right now they all align."

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Michael Noonan moved to allay fears that the snap UK election in June will delay AIB's stock market flotation, noting that the IPO had always been scheduled for some time between mid-May and early July and that the election "doesn't change the window", though he did not get more specific.

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Eir has revealed an earnings increase of 5% for the first nine months of its financial year, owing to increased take-up for its broadband offering.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) climbed €17m to €374m year-on-year for the period to the end of December.

Revenue remained "broadly flat", the telecommunications group said.

The update comes as Eir throws the doors of its new creativity and innovation hub open in Dingle, which is expected to create more than 100 jobs over the next five years.

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KBC is stepping up the competition in the Irish mortgage market by cutting its fixed rates.

The bank will lower rates by up to 0.34% for new and existing customers.

From Tuesday, it reduces its two-year, three-year and five-year fixed rates for new and existing customers from Tuesday. KBC has said those who take out a current account with them will be able to avail of a three-year fixed rate of 3.10%.

KBC's move comes mere weeks after Ulster Bank lowered its own fixed rates.

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US President Donald Trump says he is still willing to pull out of the NAFTA agreement.

During the course of the election campaign, the Republican made it clear that he would pull out of the deal which allows free trade between the US, Canada and Mexico.

Speaking in the White House on Thursday night, Trump reiterated his opinion that NAFTA was "bad" for America, so he's going to renegotiate the current deal.

He outlined why he backtracked on his election promise to end the pact early into his administration:

"The relationship is very special. And I said, I will hold on the termination; let's see if we can make it a fair deal. Because NAFTA has been a horrible deal for the United States. It's been very good for Canada, it's been very good for Mexico, but it's been horrible for the United States.

"And if you check my campaign – any of my speeches – I said, I'll either renegotiate or I'll terminate. So they asked me to renegotiate – I will."