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Archive for February 9th, 2013

When it comes to the sale of Bord Gais Energy, the State has created a special organization called NewERA which is slotted into the NTMA structure, and the sale will be a prolonged affair with a prospectus to be issued in April 2013, there will be rigorous examination of bids, there will be intense media scrutiny, there might even be questions and debate in the tarnished Dail, before a sale will ultimately be concluded and the State will see gross proceeds of about €1,000m.

This week, 99.8% state-owned Allied Irish Banks sold €400m of assets – loans secured on property in Spain – and there wasn’t even a mention of it in the Irish media or at least an online search in the past seven days of the Irish Times, Irish Independent, Irish Examiner and RTE reveals nothing. There’s not even a statement on the AIB website.

The British commercial property portal CoStar reports that the loans are understood to have made 80c in the euro and AIB will walk away with €320m. The buyers are not explicitly named but are reported to be a group of hedge funds. The loans are ultimately secured on 1,186 branches of Banco Santander in Spain.

There is a burgeoning loan sales industry in Ireland right now and with KPMG appointed Special Liquidator to Irish Bank Resolution Corporation this week, there is the prospect of many billions of loans coming onto the market in coming weeks. Here is a selection of recent loan sales deals.

IrishLoanSales

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There is no relenting in NAMA’s litigation campaign with the Agency making an application yesterday in Dublin’s High Court against an individual named as “Stephen Harris”. As this is Ireland, we are unable to get further information about the respondent at this time. There is a Galway developer, Stephen Harris whose company Harrko, NAMA foreclosed against two years ago and who is one of the most prominent developers in the west of Ireland, being the man behind the Twelve Hotel in Barna, but we don’t know if the application yesterday – reference 2013/1334 P – refers to this particular Stephen Harris.

The applicant is National Asset Loan Management Limited represented by Dublin solicitors Whitney Moore. There are actually two respondents but our expensive Court Service has recorded the second respondent as “DOWNS PUST O DEA & CO SOLS DONAL”. As is usual with recently-filed applications, there is no solicitor on record shown for the respondents.

In the past, NAMA has taken legal action against individuals to enforce personal guarantees or to secure personal judgments, but it should be stressed that we do not know if either of these objectives lies behind the current application. NAMA generally doesn’t comment on individual applications.  This is the fifth application by NAMA in the Dublin High Court in 2013, whilst NAMA has been on the receiving end of one application relating to a Portugese golf resort development.

UPDATE: 11th February, 2013. The Court Service has clarified the second respondent and said the second respondent in this case is “Donal Downs pust [practising under the style and title] of O’ Dea & Co Solicitors”

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Satire of the Week

large far away

So you owe me €7 which you previously agreed to pay me €1 a day for the next seven days. I make you an offer and say “forget about the next seven days, just pay me €20 in a month”. Is that a good deal? Would you claim, like An Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been claiming this week that you saved €7 – Enda used €20bn. Or would you say that all I’ve done is deferred the liability to the future? The above image was created by the Anglo Not Our Debt campaign and uses images from the Channel 4/Hat Trick comedy “Father Ted”

Table of the Week

NIPoliticalSalaries 

On Monday this week, the Northern Ireland Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland announced a rent deposit scheme which will launch from 1st April 2013. This progressive reform on the other side of the Border contrasts with the inaction here, where housing minister Jan O’Sullivan has failed to get this much needed, and easily implemented and administered, scheme off the ground. Contrast the earnings of politicians in Northern Ireland with politicians on this side of the Border. Yes, our own layabouts are indeed Overpaid and Overhere.

Mr Smith goes to Washington of the Week

IllBeBackSoon

Galway entrepreneur and charity boss, Evert Bopp – pictured above, via Twitter – was in the White House this week advising the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about the use of wifi in disaster zones, this, following his charity, Disaster Tech’s assistance in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Not just that, but he has been appointed to the FEMA Innovation Team. Whilst waiting for his plane to the US from Heathrow this week, Evert emailed us to says he was bringing two main matters to the discussion 1) How to improve the use of “hastily formed networks” in short term disaster response and 2) Ways to improve communication & cooperation between government aid agencies and civilian grass-roots first response organisations. Might be difficult to relate to in Ireland where we don’t really have natural disasters, but in a world of hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis, the value of the work undertaken by Disaster Tech has been recognized at the highest level. Well done to Evert and wife Kate.

Tragedy of the Week

SufferLittleChildren

The long-awaited report into state involvement in the notorious Magdalen Launderies was published this week – here’s the summary and full report. For those whose perception of the Laundries, which functioned right up to the mid-1990s, was shaped by the movie “The Magdalene Sisters”, the report was not as bad as you might have expected. Although the authors spoke with many surviving former inmates – there are about 800 still living, and over 100 contributed to the research – there was no evidence or suggestion of widespread beatings or sexual abuse, or even hair-cutting as punishment. This jarred with the statements from some of the survivors and there is to be a debate on the 1,000-page report in two weeks when no doubt, we should get some reconciliation between the perception and the report. What the report did confirm was that the work in the laundries was very hard, that girls and women emerged traumatized and living conditions were harsh.

Ulster says No to Sodomy of the Week

DavidSimpson

“This is not the jurisdiction of this government, of any European government or any government in the world. This is an ordained constitution of God. In the Garden of Eden it was Adam and Steve. It was Adam and Eve. it wasn’t Adam and Steve.” DUP’s David Simpson in the House of Commons debate on gay marriage.

Yes, all eight Democratic Unionist Party members of the British parliament voted against gay marriage this week, though that didn’t stop The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 being voted in by 400 to 175. Former Northern Ireland Secretary of State, the Tory, Owen “partisan” Paterson voted with the DUP and later got into hot water over his “biddies don’t like botties” comment, bizarrely meaning women don’t like anal sex. It all had echoes of last summer’s tizzy in the Ulster Unionist Party when the mustachioed Ken Maginnis quit the UUP during a run-in with the leadership after a radio interview about gay marriage in which he castigated the “unnatural and deviant behavior”  by “deviants” and imparted the wisdom that homosexuality was “a rung on the ladder towards bestiality”

But it was the mustachioed David Simpson – pictured above – who screwed up his lines in the Commons, and initially said “In the Garden of Eden it was Adam and Steve” before correcting himself. For a moment there, it looked like another DUPer overboard!

Where’s the Beef of the Week

We are now beginning to see the emergence of an international conspiracy to make money from the substitution of beef with horsemeat, with horsemeat being considerably cheaper than beef. It is unfortunate that the problem has stuck with Ireland because it was our Food Safety Authority which first discovered horsemeat in processed foods that were labeled “beef”, and the first companies to have the finger of blame pointed at them were Irish, or Irish owned, namely Sivercrest in Monaghan, Liffey Meats in Cavan and ABP-owned Dalepak in Yorkshire. Another Monaghan company, McAdam Foods has this week been implicated and a Northern Ireland company, Freeza Meats in Newry has been dragged into what can now be called a “scandal” because Freeza was holding horse contaminated meat for McAdam Foods. And late this week, Findus, a Swedish company was found to be supplying processed foods in both the UK and Ireland with horsemeat, and possibly horsemeat itself contaminated with the potentially dangerous horse medicine, phenylbutazone or “bute”.

In the Oireachtas this week, the verdict after hearing from Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney and from the FSA (Ireland), was that there were more questions than answers after the four hour grilling – no puns or buns please! Not a word about Liffey Meats but we did learn about 80:20 trimmings, which are 80% lean and 20% fat. We were completely underwhelmed with Minister Coveney who seems to have lost control over his brief, and his well-intentioned efforts to draw a line under the scandal seem to have come to nought, at least judging by the empty Eddie Rockets, McDonalds, Burger King and Supermac’s restaurants on a stretch of O’Connell Street at 8.30pm one night this week.

Still no word on compensation to consumers or warnings about previously sold burgers. The Gardai have been belatedly involved in the investigation and “raided” one meat trader. The view on here is that the scandal has strong echoes of the illegal dumping of toxic waste, with someone, probably organized crime, making hundreds of millions from passing off cheap or valueless horsemeat for beef.

Chief Leaking Suspect of the Week

This has been a momentous week for Ireland, or at least a momentous 12 hours between 4pm on Wednesday and 4am on Thursday, when we learned about Project Red – a plan to liquidate Irish Bank Resolution Corporation. Senator John Gilroy, the Labour party spokesperson in the Seanad, told us on Twitter yesterday that he first became aware of the plan at 4pm on Wednesday, and indeed it does seem to be the case that the detail of Project Red was known only to a few ministers and civil servants. And KPMG of course, who at 4.30pm visited upon the board of IBRC and fired them – they were “stood down”. So who leaked the details of Project Red to Bloomberg and Reuters? And why on Wednesday? An Taoiseach Enda Kenny benefitted from the distraction away from the Government’s non-chalance following the publication of the Senator MacAleese report on the Magdalene Laundries – Enda steadfastly refused to apologise to the inmates, probably to avoid any statement which might admit negligence or financial liability, but by Wednesday, wags were suggesting the Government had been so cold that it might propose issuing invoices to the Magdalene inmates for bed and board and religious education. Pressure had been mounting on Minister Noonan over the deal, and it was getting to the point that he was being hounded for progress updates.

So, who knows who the leaker was. But given that there has been no consequence for the leaking, perhaps some publicly-spirited soul might now leak the letter from the ECB to then-finance minister, Brian Lenihan in October and November 2010.

Image of the Week

Midnight

“Midnight at the Oasis”, this was the scene in the Dail in the wee hours of Thursday morning, as the deputies got to grips with the IBRC Act 2013 – it was called the IBRC Resolution Bill at 9pm on Wednesday, the IBRC Resolutions Bill at 10.30pm. It was eventually signed by President Higgins who had flown back from Rome late on Wednesday night, especially to be on hand to sign the legislation into law before the markets, or rather the courts, opened on Thursday. Of course the debate in the Dail was a complete fiasco, with apparently stocious deputies – anonymised, I see in the Dail transcript – being rambunctious amid sober speeches criticizing the haste with which the complex and draconian legislation was being rammed through. It all had echoes of the September 2008 bank guarantee. Let us hope that we don’t end up repenting at leisure.

Poll result of the Week

NIBorderPoll

Three weeks ago, Sinn Fein launched its campaign for a Border poll by 2020. The results of a BBC-commissioned poll this week will not have filled that party with confidence with a mere 1 in 5 voters indicating a preference for a united Ireland, and counter-intuitively perhaps, one third of Catholics expressing a preference to remain part of the United Kingdom.

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