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What: Shares of Irish banks Allied Irish Banks
So what: You know the story: Ireland finally agreed to a bailout to shore up the country's ailing finances and, in particular, backstop its troubled banking system. The bailout and uncertainty over just how bad the publicly traded Irish banks' balance sheets are has left equity investors trying to guess how much -- if anything -- will be left behind for them when the smoke clears. Ireland's austerity budget passed its first parliamentary vote today; bailouts are contingent on the full budget passing.
Now what: What's interesting is that the news out of Reuters today is about the potential for junior bondholders to have to take a haircut as the government overhauls the banking system. That seems like really bad news for equity holders -- they're last in line to lay claim to anything at these banks, so if bondholders are getting squeezed, there's a pretty good chance shareholders are going to get elbowed out altogether. If there's going to be a happy ending for equity investors, it's more likely to happen at Bank of Ireland, which seems to be in (somewhat) better shape. However, with the Irish government and bond investors in the driver's seat here, both are very speculative, and equity holders ought to get comfortable with the idea that they could end up with some worthless slips of paper.
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Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool or on his RSS feed. The Fool's disclosure policy assures you no Wookiees were harmed in the making of this article.
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