30/09/2010

Dáil's Anglo Bill 'At Least €29 Billion'

Ireland's financial regulator has revealed that the final cost of the taxpayer bailout of the Anglo Irish bank stands at €29.3billion, but could potentially rise to €34billion.

The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) was set up to buy and manage mainly bad property loans held by Dublin-based financial institutions and now the Irish Government's 'bad bank' has warned NI landowners and property developers that what was once viewed as hugely valuable land is now almost worthless.

Peter Stewart, from NAMA said this week that the ending of a false property boom was going to cause "financial pain".

Mr Stewart said that value had fallen so far that it was likely some of it would be sold back as farmland and he said Northern Ireland had experienced a 'property bubble' in undeveloped land and investment properties like office blocks.

Mr Stewart estimates the normal market for land sales in NI was about £100m in the years 2000 to 2005. But that spiked to £750m in the years 2006 and 2007.

He also revealed that almost £3.5bn of loans secured by NAMA are from assets in Northern Ireland: "Of the £3.35bn, 10% approximately is in assets in the course of development in other words uncompleted housing estates for the most part."

However, he also noted: "This is tiny compared to what we are looking at in the south of Ireland."

NAMA's aim was to remove bad or impaired assets from the banks' balance sheets, allowing them to rebuild their financial strength, but this week's statement on the 'final' cost came as the Dáil's Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan fended off a volley of demands for the failed bank's total cost during the week.

The statement says the Central Bank assessed the injection of capital needed to meet a minimum set of requirements taking account of expected losses and that the total capital required would be €29.3billion.
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However, the Financial Regulator added that the Central Bank estimated an additional €5billion of capital could potentially be required.

Horrendous

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Lenihan described the figures as "horrendous", but were manageable over a ten-year period. He added that the final figure should bring "closure" to the matter and that the situation with Anglo had been a "nightmare".

The fall-out from the figure is only beginning but the early reaction from the Opposition parties has already been one of incredulity.

The Labour Spokesperson on Finance Joan Burton said that even the most pessimistic observer could not have foreseen just how "calamitous" a decision the 2008 Bank Guarantee turned out to be.

She said: "Professor Morgon Kelly was attacked with vitriol by the Minister in [The Dáil] in January 2009 for daring to suggest that the bail out of Anglo Irish Bank could cost the taxpayer as much as €15bn.

"If only the cost of Anglo could have been confined to €15bn."

Ms Burton added: "The reputations of Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan have been shredded as umpteen billions are carted into the Anglo incinerator despite their vulgar promises to the Irish people that their policy would be the 'cheapest bank bail out' in history."

The report from the Financial Regulators also outlined a number of "haircuts", or reductions to the capital holdings estimate by NAMA, to Ireland's other banks.

The report advised the Allied Irish Bank it will be required to raise an additional €3 billion by 31 December, while the Bank of Ireland was told it already had sufficient capital for the higher 'haircuts' issued by NAMA.

The Head of Financial Regulation at the Central Bank, Matthew Elderfield, said: "The assessment we have published today of the costs of Anglo's restructuring reflect careful analysis of information from a range of sources.

"We have today confirmed we are pressing ahead with our plans to require the Irish banks to meet more rigorous capital requirements which are closely aligned with the new international standards."

(DW/BMcC)

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