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Wilbur Ross: It is too early to invest in Italy

Wilbur Ross's 'reluctant' Bank of Ireland sale

U.S. billionaire Wilbur Ross has praised the efforts of governments in Greece, Spain and Ireland in helping their economies get back on their feet following international bailouts, but warned it was still too early to invest in Italy.

Ross, who sold his entire stake in part-state owned lender Bank of Ireland Monday, said he offloaded his shares to "undo concentration" and "reluctantly accepted" an offer for the whole stake from Deutsche Bank, adding he was still looking for non-banking opportunities in Ireland.

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Wilbur Ross, the billionaire chairman of private-equity firm WL Ross & Co.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"Well as this bank (Bank of Ireland) plus Virgin money, plus our Greek investment and American banks has just gotten to be too big a portion of the portfolio so in order to avoid and undo concentration we needed to make a sale and a large sale," Ross told CNBC. 

Ross said he thought Ireland and the bank had a very good future and he would "miss the association" with both. 

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But he added that his company has started looking around other economies on the periphery of the euro zone.  

"We did make an investment, not a terribly large one, but we did invest in Eurobank which is one of the main four banks in Greece, so I don't think it is too early to invest in Greece -- I just did it," he told CNBC.

With "outside help" Greece, Spain and Ireland have "done a very good job" of estimating worst-case losses, he said.

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"We are not as knowledgeable Italy as we are about the other two, but the general sense of things is maybe it is a little bit of an earlier stage of turnaround in Italy then it might be in Greece or Spain," he said. 

The billionaire is set to pocket about 480 million euros ($650 million) from the sale of his entire 26.5 percent stake of the part state-owned Bank of Ireland, tripling his original investment in the lender according to reports.

Shares in Bank of Ireland fell over 3 percent in afternoon trading following the news. Ross has resigned from his role as director following the sale. The Irish government still own 14 percent of the bank.