If the timetable for NAMA’s first quarterly report and accounts is anything to go by, then it would seem that the second quarterly accounts will be made public on 6th or 7th of October, 2010 having been delivered by NAMA to the Department of Finance by close of business tomorrow. The first quarterly report and accounts covered the period up to 31st March 2010 and given the first loans, which totalled, just €270m transferred to NAMA on 29th March, 2010 there wasn’t a great deal to report in terms of NAMA’s core operations – though there is an entry on here dealing with what appeared to be the more interesting or important aspects of that first report. This entry examines areas to look out for in the second report.
(1) Performing loans. It says something for the lack of transparency at NAMA that six months after the first transfers of loans, there is not even a general public consensus on the term “performing loan” – is it a loan being repaid in accordance with its contract (which might involve rolling up interest) or is it loans that are repaying interest as it is accrued? Regardless according to NAMA, the % of performing loans predicted in the October 2009 draft Business Plan was 40%, this had fallen to 33% by April 2010 and was 25% in the June 2010 Business Plan. Regardless of definition, performing loans will be key to NAMA generating a positive cash flow in the early days and not relying on the good people in Upper Merrion Street for more hand-outs.
(2) Derivative losses: In just two days to the end of March 2010, NAMA managed to make a loss of €1.4m on derivatives it had taken over from the banks. It has been frustrating in the extreme to see politicians like Joan Burton seeking to get assurances or explanations from the Minister for Finance as to the potential exposures on NAMA’s derivatives. If further losses are reported in this quarter’s reports, that clamour for explanation might grow to the extent that NAMA needs address the issue publicly.
(3) Professional fees: I don’t think people generally realise the extent of the vast army of firms providing services to NAMA. 64 firms of solicitors in Ireland alone, another 8 in the UK, 30-odd valuation companies, the outsourcing giant Capita and individual organisations providing a host of other services. It is truly immense and so also are the fees. NAMA was expecting to have operating costs of €240m in its first year of operation. Has €60m been spent in the second quarter and if so, who has benefited?
(4) Staff costs: Two weeks ago, the former head of the NTMA, Dr Michael Somers justified salary confidentiality in an interview with Simon Carswell in the irish Times : he “was asked “endless times” about how much he and his staff were paid. He refused, he says, claiming this would have increased the agency’s pay bill, as employees on individually negotiated deals would have sought more, to match their colleagues’ pay”. NAMA’s salary costs might be more apparent if a note to the accounts is produced to the same level of detail as any normal PLC, ie salaries, benefits and employees might assist with seeing what the average salary and benefits at NAMA are.
(5) Repayments of capital: By the end of June 2010, NAMA had taken over loans at about €20bn face value (€16bn in Tranche 1 and a portion of Tranche 2). Surely some capital was repaid.
(6) Has NAMA made a profit or loss: NAMA managed to make a loss of €7m in the period up to the end of March 2010. This was due to paying €2.5m to PwC for advice, €1m to Capita/the banks for managing the loans, €2.2m for costs recharged from the NTMA, €0.5m for tax,legal and other financial advice and €1.4m as a loss on derivatives partly offset by foreign exchange gains of €0.5m. During the second quarter NAMA should have had some income to offset its costs and it shouldn’t have start-up costs and would have limited secondment costs. I would doubt that it reports a profit but any loss should be modest.
(7) Interest received: Surely on the €20bn of loans acquired up to the end of June 2010, some interest was paid. And if it was, how much and at what rate. NAMA has previously given us to understand that the average interest rate payable by borrowers is ECB + 2% (that is 3% per annum).
(8) Other income received: Has NAMA taken control of rent rolls or car parking receipts? Probably not as it was only raised as an issue by NAMA after the end of June 2010. But if it has will NAMA provide details?
(9) Working capital advances to developers: NAMA received €250m as a recoupable advance during May 2010 from the Exchequer (which is apparently repayable in October 2010 according to Minister for Finance Lenihan). What was this used for? There would not have been any interest payable commitments in the period (these occur in September and March). Some developers might have needed advances to maintain developments – the last time I visited Treasury Holdings Battersea Power Station site in London, there were security guards and some maintenance work was taking place. Where this €250m went will be of immense interest though unfortunately the level of detail in the report and accounts might disappoint.
(10) Breakdown of loans received: How many loans were bought for zero consideration. Just as interesting, how many were bought with practically no haircut whatsoever.
(11) Is NAMA making a profit on due diligence? This probably seems a bizarre question but remember that NAMA is entitled to deduct 0.25% of loan values for due diligence and a further 5% for enforcement. Earlier this year the Irish Times was claiming that NAMA might make a profit of €25m this year because it might underspend its due diligence costs. The accounting at NAMA whereby income from banks for due diligence is capitalised and then offset against actual expenses made this impossible to decipher in the first quarter’s report. Will this report be any clearer? Surely if there is good news in that NAMA has made a profit from this area, then NAMA should make that clear at least in a note to the accounts.
(12) How are developer loans and interest receivable shown. In the first quarter’s report, the price that NAMA had paid for the loans and not the face value of the loan was shown eg if NAMA acquired a €77m loan for €54m then NAMA was showing the €54m as owing. This gave rise to accusations that NAMA would not pursue borrowers for more than NAMA was paying for the loans and that NAMA was therefore bailing out borrowers. Even more worrying was that NAMA appeared to be calculating interest receivable on the purchase price (ie the €54m above) and not the face value of the loans. NAMA can change its accounting treatment and show the loans with a €77m face value and a provision for losses of €23m and the same with interest receivable. IFRS 9 allows NAMA to account for loss provisions in this way and in that way write-offs will be apparent and the public will feel it has greater confidence in NAMA’s transparency.
And lastly here are two subjects that will probably not be reported
(13) Conflicts of Interest. if a member of the NAMA Board has a material interest in a matter before the Board as set out under section 30(2) of the NAMA Act, then that interest must be advised to the Board. The Board must record the interest and may refer to the disclosure in the Quarterly Report. It is within the discretion of NAMA to refer to the disclosure and NAMA must juggle unhealthy public attention now with the consequences of the information eventually leaking out later. NAMA did not report on any conflict of interest in the first quarterly report and the betting is that they will not in subsequent reports, even if there have been recordings of conflicts. Again this is a discretionary disclosure on NAMA’s part. Of wider interest will be conflicts of interest between amongst staff and third party providers of services. These were supposed to be captured in a NAMA register of interests and in the tendering process but again, they will in all likelihood not be made public. A couple of months ago, the Mail on Sunday carried a dramatic story on NAMA’s Head of Portfolio Management, John Mulcahy and his relationship with businessman and sometimes developer Paul Coulson. An innuendo from the story was that might have been some conflict of interest but the story was inconclusive and was apparently abandoned by the Mail.
(14) Legal cases. Paddy McKillen and 15 of his companies launched a judicial review application on 1st July, 2010 – just outside the reporting period for this quarterly report. So next week when the quarterly report is published it is likely to be forgotten by daily briefings from what promises to be one humdinger of a case at the High Court where Paddy is challenging NAMA’s right to take over his loans. NAMA itself has launched one legal action (though it is the subject of three separate applications at the High Court) against developer Paddy shovlin and his sometimes partners Anthony Fitzpatrick and Patrick Fitzpatrick reported here in the Independent. The applications were made by NAMA at the start of August 2010 and therefore will also not be included in this report. There is a third legal case where NAMA is listed as an interested party where Clare developers, John Flanagan and Gerard Lillis are contesting the appointment of NAMA Board member Brian McEnery as a receiver to their companies. There is an additional strand to their case where they are seeking a declaration that Anglo and NAMA are “amenable to judicial review”. There are no other cases involving NAMA at present in the Irish courts except for the above three.
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