Allied Irish Banks PLC, which is partly owned by the Irish government, confirmed Friday that a third party had expressed interest in taking a stake in the bank.

"AIB notes the recent press comment regarding interest from a third party taking a minority stake in the group and confirms that it has received such interest," the bank said, without revealing the identity of the party. "However, any discussions with regard to this matter are preliminary and are not expected to progress in the near term."

The Irish Times, citing an unnamed source, reported Friday that a Canadian bank had made a proposal to take a stake in AIB but that it would not make the move until AIB's development loans are transferred to Ireland's National Asset Management Agency.

The paper did not name the bank but said it is believed to be one of Canada's five biggest banks.

A representative for Royal Bank of Canada said RBC is not involved in talks. Representatives of Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce declined to comment.

The paper said the talks began two weeks ago but that any move is unlikely to develop in the near term because it is predicated on the outcome of AIB's talks with the National Asset Management Agency. AIB sold a 25% stake to the Irish government earlier this year to help boost its finances after it was hit hard by the collapse in Ireland's property market.

Moving in on an Irish bank would be a rare foray into Europe for Canadian banks, which are active internationally and have major operations in the United States, Caribbean, Latin America and Asia.

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