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Archive for January 3rd, 2013

NLIwebsite

A group ultimately representing Irish newspapers, including the Independent, Irish Times and Examiner has written to a charity, which has a website which linked to an online newspaper story, and demanded fees for the link! For those of you unfamiliar with “linking”, this is a link to the RTE News website.  You’ll notice that the text is blue, not black and when you place your mouse cursor over the text, you get a little hand symbol which if clicked will bring you to RTE News. For most people using the Internet, this is familiar stuff.

But you won’t believe what comes next, and thankfully an Irish firm of solicitors has described it in detail here.

In summary, Newspaper Licensing Ireland – screengrab of website homepage above – which ultimately represents a number of Irish newspapers including the Independent, Irish Times and Examiner wrote to Women’s Aid, an Irish charity which helps victims of  domestic violence, pointing out that the charity had provided information on its website and linked to stories in online newspapers, and demanded fees ranging from €300 for 1-5 links to €1,350 for 26-50 links. These were per annum prices!

Just for your information, this particular blogpost has so far included three hyperlinks!

Newspaper Licensing Ireland says of itself “Newspaper Licensing Ireland Ltd (NLI) is a dedicated collecting society that represents the copyright interests of Irish national and regional newspaper publications, including National Newspapers of Ireland”, it shares the same address as the National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) and NNI members include most Irish newspapers including the ones named above.

It is unclear when the demand was made to Women’s Aid and what their response was. A copy of the demand and the response were requested but there has not been a response at time of writing, and to be honest, given the serious work undertaken by that charity, I was almost embarrassed to use their time even asking;  nor has there been any response to a request for comment from NNI.

What is baffling is the business model for freely available online content generally hinges on attracting viewers and then selling that attraction to advertisers. Basically the more people who view free online newspapers the better for the coffers of the online newspaper. So demanding a fee from another website to increase your viewers is utterly baffling.

And whilst all of this might be a bit confusing in this age of technology, consider how many books and papers you have read in the past which have included footnote references to sources and sometimes bibliographies. What Women’s Aid did was apparently no more than the online equivalent of this. Perhaps the clowns at NNI will be writing to Google next charging Google every time it includes a newspaper hyperlink in its search results!

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We learn from today’s edition of Iris Oifigiuil that NAMA has had William O’Riordan and Declan McDonald of PricewaterhouseCoopers appointed as receivers to unspecified assets owned by the following companies which are all associated with Treasury Holdings, the company to which KBC finally succeeded in having a liquidator appointed last October 2012. All of the appointments were made on 21st December 2012.

(1) Treasury Holdings, directors John Bruder (54), Richard Barrett (58), Patrick Teahon (67), John Ronan (59) and Rory Williams (48), owned by Zeedersbrook Limited (c100%), Lemur Holdings Limited (<1%), Tindal Holdings Limited (<1%) – Zeedersbrook Limited is in turn 50% owned by John Ronan (the colorful Johnny Ronan) and 50% owned by the understated Richard Barrett

(2) Haybrook Limited, directors John Bruder (54), John Ronan (59) and Rory Williams (48), owned by Castle Market Holdings Limited

(3) Diamond Bay Limited, directors John Bruder (54), John Ronan (59) and Rory Williams (48), owned by Castle Market Holdings Limited

(4) Harrisrange Limited, directors John Bruder (54), Richard Barrett (58), Patrick Teahon (67), John Ronan (59) and Rory Williams (48), owned by Stromport Limited (c100%) and Richard Barrett (<1%)

(5) Streamglen Limited, directors John Bruder (54), John Ronan (59) and Rory Williams (48), owned by Castle Market Holdings Limited

Remember you can see the list of NAMA’s enforcement actions here and in this regularly updated spreadsheet.

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NAMA was supposed to have delivered its report and accounts for Q3,2012 to Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan by 31st December, 2012 and we will probably get these in the next month. We must wait until April 2013 until we get the Q4,2012 report and accounts which will also include unaudited accounts for the entire year 2012, and we will get in the summer, probably July 2013, the annual report from NAMA for 2012.

But this afternoon, we get a detailed update from NAMA on 2012. It is here.

This is what we learn

(1) NAMA and its developers and receivers presently have €1.5bn of Irish assets on the market, and given that NAMA should have the final say on most asset disposals, that makes NAMA incredibly powerful, though I would wager that the vast majority of these assets are completed commercial properties.

(2) NAMA is sitting on a cash mountain of €3.6bn even after paying off a lifetime total of €4.75bn of its €30bn of senior bonds. NAMA needs pay another €2.75bn by the end of 2013, as a condition that Minister Noonan agreed to insert into the Memorandum of Understanding with the Troika in May 2012.

(3) NAMA doesn’t offer us an estimate of its profit for 2012, which is out of line with previous years when its CEO did provide estimates even before year end. What we do know is that NAMA made a post-impairment profit of €222m for H1,2012. I would guess NAMA made a €500-1bn operating profit last year and will have taken about €250-500m in impairments. But remember there is a lot of jiggery pokery going on with NAMA’s accounts where it anticipates future receipts in some instances and in others, it ignores certain profits on specific transactions until its relationship with a developer is fully concluded.

(4) NAMA has allocated €2bn to investment in Ireland in the four years ending 2016 and had previous agreed advances of €0.5bn in Ireland. NAMA doesn’t tell us how much of the €2bn has been drawn down to date, the IMF wrote in December 2012 that the €2bn investment would be back-loaded and today NAMA says “the timing of actual draw-downs in Ireland is dependent, for certain of the proposed projects, on resolution of planning matters and a number of infrastructural issues with various local authorities. This will enhance the commercial viability of these projects.” Again, it would seem planning is working against our national economic interest.

(5) NAMA reminds us that it has €2bn available for vendor or staple finance – this is where NAMA lends up to 75% of the purchase price of prime commercial property with quality tenants when NAMA is selling the property to reputable investors; NAMA charges about 3-4% per annum on its vendor finance. NAMA has still only completed one staple finance sale – One Warrington Place but says today “The first vendor finance transaction was completed during 2012 and a number of others are currently in the pipeline and nearing completion.”

(6) In respect of the 295 homes offered with NAMA’s deferred payment initiative or “negative equity mortgage” as it popularly became known the Agency says “sales have been agreed on over 100 of these properties with an aggregate value in excess of €18 million.”

(7) NAMA has now made 3,900 homes available for social housing, and indeed the snails-pace acquisition of NAMA homes by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government has been the fault of the Department, not NAMA. That’s not what NAMA says today, that’s the assessment on here – NAMA merely says “the onus for determining the suitability of these units for social housing rests with the local authorities, which assess, in conjunction with the Housing Agency, the demand for identified houses and apartments”

(8) When the reform of Upward Only Rent Review terms in commercial leases was abandoned in December 2011, NAMA launched its own initiative to ease the burden of commercial property rents on tenants whose businesses were in distress and today, NAMA says that it has approved €13.5m of rent abatement applications so far. Of the 276 applications received, 212 have been approved, 8 refused including this one presumably,  and 56 are currently being approved.

(9) NAMA has dealt with over 17,000 of the dreaded credit applications to date – they’re “dreaded” by developers who must get NAMA to approve additional spending on their properties. NAMA says that is “currently” dealing with requests within five days. Last year, Treasury Holdings had some nasty things to allege about NAMA delays in approving credit applications.

UPDATE: 3rd January, 2013. Commenting on NAMA’s performance in 2012, Chief Executive, Brendan McDonagh said:  “the generation of €10.5 billion in cash in the 33 months since the first loans transferred to NAMA reflects a strong performance in terms of asset disposals and also shows the  importance for NAMA of capturing the rental income from assets under the control of debtors”.  NAMA Chairman, Frank Daly, commented that, with €3.5 billion in Senior Bonds redeemed during the year, NAMA has made significant progress in 2012 towards repaying the debt it had incurred in acquiring its loan portfolio. “As we end 2012 with a healthy €3.6 billion in cash and with €4.75 billion redeemed to date, we remain firmly on course to meet our end-2013 Senior Bond redemption target of €7.5 billion. Performance on a number of key targets during the year, in conjunction with growing indications that the Irish commercial and residential markets are stabilising, reinforces our confidence that we will achieve our
ultimate objective of completing our work by 2020”.

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Yesterday, the accounts of Gerry Gannon’s British residential property arm were reported, and although Gannon Homes (UK) Limited can service loan interest at present, it says it needs a recovery in the housing market so as to actually repay the loans. The recovery needed wasn’t specified, but news today indicates prospects for any short-term recovery look shaky.

NationwideBSDec12

The Nationwide Building Society has published its UK House Price data for December 2012. The Nationwide tends to be the first of the two UK building societies (the other being the Halifax) to produce house price data each month, it is one of the information sources referenced by NAMA’s Long Term Economic Value Regulation and is the source for the UK Residential key market data at the top of this page.

The Nationwide says that the average price of a UK home is now GBP 162,262 (compared to GBP 163,853 in November 2012 and GBP £162,764 at the end of November 2009 – 30th November, 2009 is the Valuation date chosen by NAMA by reference to which it values the Current Market Values of assets underpinning NAMA loans). UK prices have declined by 2.1% in the past 12 months and are now 12.8% off the peak of GBP £186,044 in October 2007. Interestingly the average house price at the end of December 2012 being GBP £162,262 (or €200,166 at GBP 1 = EUR 1.2336) is 25% above the €160,017 implied by applying the CSO November 2012 index to the PTSB/ESRI peak prices in Ireland.

NationwideBSDec12Detail

With the latest release from Nationwide, UK house prices have decline 0.3% since 30th November, 2009, the date chosen by NAMA pursuant to the section 73 of the NAMA Act by reference to which Current Market Values of assets are valued. The NWL Index is now at 790 (because only an estimated 20% of NAMA property in the UK is residential and only 29% of NAMA’s property overall is in the UK, small changes in UK residential have a negligible impact on the index) meaning that average prices of NAMA property must increase by a weighted average of 26.7% for NAMA to breakeven on a gross basis.

This morning, the Nationwide also produced its quarterly regional house price results as follows:

NationwideBSQ42012

The UK economy is suffering difficulties almost every bit as challenging as those in the EuroZone and Ireland. Sure, they have their own currency and they’ve printed GBP 300bn of it in an economy with a GDP of 1.5tn, to help inflate their problems away. And yet they appear poised for a triple dip recession.  In December 2012, the UK’s independent Office for Budget Responsibility published its latest fiscal outlook which forecasts GDP for 2012 at -0.1%, 1.2%, 2.0%, 2.3%, 2.7% and 2.8% (but as with all economic forecasts in the long term, all forecasters forecast a peachy outlook). Deficit:GDP is forecast as -5.7%,-4.6%,-3.7%,-2.8%,-1.4% and -0.4% between 2012-2017. Debt:GDP is forecast at 90.3%, 93.5%, 96.3%, 97.4%, 96.6% and 94.4%. Inflation is forecast at 2.8%,2.5%,2.2% for 2012-2014. It expects residential prices to increase 0.7%/ 3%/ 3.8%/ 4%/ 4% in 2013-2016 and commercial property to change -2.1%, 1.0%, 3.1%.3.6%, 3.9% and 3.5%  in 2012-2017.

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Dublin developer David Agar’s profile was raised last year as NAMA had receivers appointed to his companies, and unusually for NAMAed developers who oftentimes seem cowed by the Agency, David then reacted through the press claiming NAMA wouldn’t be happy until developers were reduced to living in three-bed semis and driving around in Cortinas – for the younger audience, the Ford Cortina was the Ford Mondeo of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s before being discontinued. David cropped up again in summer last year in a far more favourable context when he reportedly won a substantial sum from Ulster Bank on foot of allegedly mis-sold interest rate hedging products.

Today, he is reported by the Independent to have launched a legal case in Dublin’s High Court to recover €500,000 which he claims was a loan to a “business partner”, “best man” and “godfather to one of his children”, Westmeath businessman, George Tracey. The loan dates back to April 2007 when David himself invested €500,000 in an AIB property fund, called “Alpha Japan Fund” and it is alleged that David also lent an additional €500,000 to George to make a similar investment. The Fund is now apparently making distributions and David wants his money back. David launched his legal bid at the High Court on 20th December 2012 and the respondents are George and also AIB and the Fund itself. It is reported that AIB turned at court yesterday to say it was “in the middle of a dispute between the two businessmen, and was happy to comply with any orders made by the court”

NAMA is not a party to the case but no doubt, it is keeping an eye on proceedings to see if there is any unencumbered windfall heading into David’s lap.

The case continues and appears set for further mention on 14th January 2013, but for the time being, an injunction has been granted stopping distributions by the Fund to George.

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