Well that day has finally arrived. After 3.5 years and 2,700 blogposts, this is the final NAMA wine lake blogpost. I truly regret that I can’t continue something that has become more than full-time and has stopped me leading anything like a normal life.
There was going to be a much longer farewell blogpost but that is not to be, though I will include the already-drafted section on NAMA itself below*
The 2,700 blogposts will remain online – from emigration to bank-controlled hotels to political pay/perks and centrally of course, NAMA, there are thousands of hours of original research on these pages, some not available elsewhere. Commenting has now been closed, but the body of nearly 20,000 comments will remain. The jagdipsingh2008 email address will be permanently closed on Sunday next and will have the digital equivalent of concrete poured over it, so the thousands of messages received on here in confidence will forever remain confidential. The Twitter feed has now ceased.
To the audience, thank you for visiting and I hope the blog delivered what it said on the tin – to be provocative, engaging and contain real information. To commenters, you have added a wealth of knowledge, opinion, humour and links which has dwarfed the utility of the blog otherwise. To those who contacted the blog in confidence, your information and insight/opinions have extended what was the offering otherwise Thank you all.
Sin a bhfuil.
*“It is flattering to hear NWL being sometimes referred to as to most authoritative source for what is going on at NAMA. It’s also depressing because I know how little is reported on these pages. The most common question asked by the public about NAMA is “how is NAMA doing” and the most authoritative reply I can give you on here is “I don’t know”.
You see, you might think that you can assess NAMA’s performance by reference to its impact on individual properties or loans eg NAMA bought Developer A’s €150m loan for €100m and NAMA was subsequently repaid €150m when it sold the loan or managed the property, that would be an impressive success, but we never know in respect of an individual loan what its par value is, what its NAMA acquisition price is or generally the disposal value. So on an INDIVIDUAL basis, we can’t assess NAMA’s performance. NAMA refuses to provide details on individual sales because of the legislation under which it operates though I have no doubt NAMA itself welcomes the lack of scrutiny which might lead to it being bogged down in the minutiae of constantly defending itself (though it might also reveal instances of poor performance).
So, we look to the OVERALL performance in the financial accounts, but here, the figures are so distorted by (valid) accounting conventions that again, we don’t really know what’s happening. At this point, most cynics say NAMA is taking advantage of the conventions to hide massive losses but you can’t conclusively say that. Two of the main distortions are the accounting policy which stops NAMA recognizing profits on an individual loan until all the loans associated with the relevant developer are disposed of, eg if Developer A has two loans from NAMA, one for €150m which NAMA acquired for €100m and another for €50m which NAMA acquired for €25m. If NAMA disposes of the first loan for €150m, then it has made a profit, but NAMA won’t report that profit until it deals with the second loan, and the second loan might be resolved at a loss of €20m. NAMA does indicate the profits it has not accounted for, but NAMA doesn’t indicate the quality of unresolved loans with the same developers.
The second convention which really distorts NAMA’s overall performance is the way in which financial institutions generally, account for the value of their loans. The estimate on here is that the property underlying NAMA’s loans has dropped by more than €7bn since NAMA acquired the loans, but NAMA has written off less than half that, because accounting conventions allow NAMA to estimate the future cash flow from loans and to pay limited attention to the underlying property, and NAMA is in the view on here, overly optimistic in its future cash flow estimates. So, you can’t rely on the accounts for an OVERALL assessment of NAMA’s performance.
So in response to the question “how is NAMA doing”, the ready response on here is “I don’t know”
Will NAMA make a profit by 2020? Who knows, none of us has a crystal ball. I would have said that if the broader economy stabilizes by the mid 2010s, and grows at a near 3% in 2016-2020, then NAMA could return a modest profit based on how it currently operates. A lot of its ultimate performance however, will depend less on its own actions and more on the general economic environment.
Lastly, NAMA staff – are they any good? NAMA staff are criticized for many things from various quarters: being petty, intimidating and vindictive. And their performance is criticized for being slow, not being commercial enough, dogmatic and inflexible, and unintelligent. These are points of view of course. But, what appears to be universally agreed – even by detractors – is that they are hard-working, honest, accomplished and making progress in what is one of the most high-profile and politically-charged organizations in a country that invented the term “gombeen politics”. NAMA might have been a different beast if it was led by Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary but Michael O’Leary wasn’t available and we lobbed the NAMA baby into the safe hands of Brendan McDonagh – conservative, careful, considerate, risk-averse accountant in the civil service mould. And so far, he has delivered to the expectation of those that know him. The one big criticism on here of NAMA is its failure to at least kick up a stink in 2010 when it became clear that property prices were still tanking, so that the NAMA valuation date could be changed, which would have meant NAMA paying far less for the loans, maybe €5-10bn less, which would mean that NAMA’s performance today was more impressive, though it would have left a further hole in the banks which needed to be filled with a further bailout. Furthermore, NAMA is not an organization to rival the red-in-tooth-and-claw asset management companies, but for a politically inspired agency, it has very impressive staff overall”