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Ireland denies needing bailout amid market fears

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Is Ireland seeking EU help with finances?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dublin is in talks with international officials, but hasn't requested help, it says
  • Its banking sector faces serious problems, which could cause problems elsewhere
  • A bailout could cost 80 billion euros ($109 billion), a top economist predicts
  • The EU and IMF had to bail Greece out in May
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London, England (CNN) -- Ireland is not on the verge of defaulting on debts, its Ministry of Finance insisted Monday, amid international fears that Ireland's financial troubles threaten the stability of the European currency the euro.

But the denial itself revealed how serious Dublin's potential problem is. The ministry said, "Ireland is fully funded till well into 2011," suggesting that less than a year's reserves are available.

The ministry denied that Ireland had applied for a bailout, but said it was talking to "international colleagues in light of current market conditions."

The European Union and International Monetary Fund were forced to step in to bail Greece out in May of this year, coming up with a 110- billion-euro (currently $150 billion), three-year loan to save Greece from defaulting on debt.

Janet Henry, the chief European economist at HSBC bank in London, estimated that an Irish bailout could cost 80 billion euros ($109 billion).

The money could be available within three to four weeks of a request from Dublin, she predicted, saying the money would come from the EU and IMF.

Ireland's issue is a major banking problem, explained David Owen, the chief European financial economist and managing director of Jeffries International, Ltd.

"Given the size of the banking sector's balance sheet, 1.3 trillion euro ($1.8 trillion) in total with over 500 billion euro ($682 billion) of foreign deposits, (Ireland's banking problem) is in danger of becoming everyone's problem," he said.

Fears about Ireland can themselves move markets, he warned.

"We live in a world of negative feedback loops, where negative sentiment can rapidly feed off itself, changing economic fundamentals themselves," he said.

And although Ireland's economy is relatively small, it can have an effect on the much larger British economy, he said.

"Ireland is systemically important for the U.K., partly through trade links, but importantly also through banking," he said.

"Ireland appears to be under mounting pressure from elsewhere in the Eurozone to ask for assistance," said Henry of HSBC.

"The Irish government has no immediate funding needs and still hopes to be able reassure the markets when it unveils the details of the December 7 budget," she said.

CNN's Eileen Hsieh, Krsna Harilela and Kendra Petersen contributed to this report