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Archive for November 30th, 2010

It is over a year since Bernard McNamara’s Donatex Limited initiated legal action against the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) over aspects of the purchase and development of the Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend in Dublin but it seems that at last the case is edging towards a hearing.

Yesterday, according to the Irish Times, the Commercial Court set out further directions for dealing with the application which is ultimately seeking to invalidate the joint venture agreement between Donatex and the DDDA in November 2006 and ultimately to extricate Donatex from past and additional financial commitments in respect of the site which cost €412m when it was purchased by a consortium of Donatex, the DDDA and a Derek Quinlan vehicle, Mempal Limited. We get some flavour of the hubris in the DDDA in 2006 with staff there allegedly seeing the €412m purchase of the controversial site as expanding the influence of the DDDA and enhancing/securing their own personal positions and careers.

There are many observers that feel there is a can of worms to be opened and examined in respect of the DDDA’s involvement in the site and indeed the decisions made by the former freeholder, the Dublin Port Company and the former leaseholder South Wharf PLC. Bernard has already suffered from his involvement with the site, having obtained €62.5m of mezzanine finance for the purchase of the site which he now allegedly owes the investors. The DDDA makes reference to the present legal case in its last annual report but concludes it will overcome – “one of the Authority’s joint venture partners in Becbay Limited (Bernard McNamara/Donatex Limited) which owns the Irish Glass Bottle site, has initiated legal proceedings against the Authority. The Authority believes it will successfully defend this case.” It seems that it will be 2011 before the case gets a full hearing.

There is several detailed entries on the history and recent background of the controversial Glass Bottle site here and here and here.

UPDATE: 1st December, 2010. Donal Buckley in today’s Independent has a mischievous piece in which he considers the finances of RTE decamping from its prestigious address off the Ailesbury Road and move a couple of kms north to the vacant “waterfront” (do you mean “former landfill dump” Donal?) Irish Glass Bottle site. According to Donal RTE’s 31-acre campus in Donnybrook might fetch €3-5m/acre today and RTE could buy the IGB site for €50m (the December 2008 and 2009 valuation of the site by the DDDA) and use the €100m “profit” to offset the estimated €350m cost of upgrading RTE’s facilities. Of course there are many sites throughout the State that might be able to accommodate a 21st century RTE campus – how about Cork, Galway or Limerick (isn’t Dell’s former site available). If the BBC in the UK can relocate much of its operations from London to Manchester, might our own be able to do the same? A mischievous piece to be sure.

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Somewhere in one of the secondary school poetry books is a couple of poems by Robert Frost – “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening” and “The Road not taken”. Other than an anthology by Seamus Heaney, the only other poetry book I paid money for as an adult was a Robert Frost collection and I must say that the editor of our school books probably picked out the best two examples of the man’s life work. But another simpler poem by Mr Frost was about the rose and from recollection it goes

“A rose is a rose
And has always been a rose
But the theory now goes
That the apple’s a rose
And the pear, and the plum
I suppose
The dear only knows
What next will be a rose,
And then, you
You are a rose
But then again, you have always
Been a Rose”

The poem was apparently about some botanical debate about whether apples, pears and plum plants were part of the rose family. I think the poem was simply called “A rose” but a better title might have been that phrase from Romeo and Juliet “a rose by any other name” and I am reminded of it this morning as yesterday’s news that Anglo Irish Bank Corporation (Anglo) is to change its name within weeks, pass its deposit book which was worth €33bn in June 2010 (or indeed sell? why not, after all if Anglo is paying depositors from 1.5% and given the cost and difficulties in accessing money market funding, the deposits might have some value) and will rebrand its €38bn residual loan book under a different name which according to Anglo Chairman, Alan Dukes speaking on RTE radio this morning, will be run down over a period of years. It seems from Irish Times reporting that Anglo’s loanbook will “conceivably” be combined with INBS’s loanbook and that there is to be a v4.0 restructuring plan (v1.0 in November 2009 was rejected out of hand by the EC, v2.0 in May 2010 was rejected in early September 2010 despite Brian Lenihan making personal entreaties to Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia in Brussels and v3.0 was reportedly submitted to the EC “the last week of October 2010” – let’s hope v4.0 is a charmer!). The media seemed obsessed yesterday with the change of name as if taking a sledgehammer to the signs on the bank building will obliterate the toxicity of the loans and derivatives that will remain in the rebranded bank (€38bn alone from Anglo).

Despite the flurry of activity with Anglo in the last couple of days, that bank did not feature in the awkwardly-worded release from the Central Bank on Sunday night which accompanied the announcement of the bailout. The press release dealt with Allied Irish Banks (AIB), Bank of Ireland (BoI), EBS and Irish Life and Permanent (ILP – parent to Permanent TSB) and announced a further €10bn injection into these four financial institutions – €8bn in capital injections and a further €2bn in “early measures to support deleveraging” – a total of €10bn. The wider bailout announcement made clear that another €25bn would be available as a contingency.

Of the €8bn in capital injections, €5.265bn is to go to AIB, €2.199bn to BoI, €0.438bn to EBS and €0.098bn to ILP which will lead to all four institutions having a Core Tier 1 capital cover of 12.5-14.0%. AIB, BoI and EBS have another three months to 28th February, 2011 and ILP has six months to 31st May, 2011, to put the additional capital in place. At this stage it is not clear to what extent the State will need make up to €8bn available and to what extent the capital can be raised privately through a rights issue or disposal of assets. There was no indication which banks would be the beneficiaries of the €2bn in “deleveraging support”

The announcement from the Central Bank was dreadful in that there was little information or rationale for the details in the announcement which also announced that AIB and BoI would now transfer €0-20bn land and development loan exposures to NAMA, a volteface on the decision announced on 30th September, 2010 to allow those two banks to keep €5-20m exposures because it was more “effective and efficient”. Why is AIB’s Core Tier 1 capital to go to 14%? How safe are credit unions in the State which are to be subjected to stricter rules in 2011 – “A significant strengthening of the regulation and stability of the credit union sector will be carried out by end-2011.” And in the interview with Governor of the Central Bank on RTE yesterday, of course no-one asked for a rationale though it seems that Patrick himself wasn’t in favour of the capital injections. Bizarre and confused and doesn’t inspire confidence.

And speaking of inspiring confidence, it seems that after the Prudential Capital Assessment Review announced in March 2010 and updated in September 2010, there is to be another PCAR undertaken by 31st March 2011 and this time there will be a review of loan provisions by (a) the Central Bank and (b) an “independent third party”– you’d have to ask if that is to be the same unidentified “independent consultants” which informed the predicted loss levels on 30th September, 2010. It was disappointing in the extreme to hear the Financial Regulator, Matthew Elderfield, last week outline future examination of non-NAMA loans at the banks at a “granular level” – why the blazes has this not happened already? NAMA uncovered atrocious lending practices and documentation on a loan-by-loan basis, why has this regime of independently verifying non-NAMA loans not already taken place? The Irish Times today reports that an “independent assessment of the new financial regulator will also take place to ensure that international best practice is being followed”.

The immediate reaction of the stock market to the announcement on Sunday night was very positive – shares in the three State-guaranteed banks not in 100% State-ownership recorded major gains yesterday with Allied Irish Banks up €0.02 (6%) to €0.362, Bank of Ireland up €0.05 (17%) to €0.31 and Irish Life and Permanent up €0.30 (58%) at €0.81. The markets seem to have formed the view that ILP will be able to raise its own capital by May 2011 without recourse to the State which might have brought that institution into majority State control.

So where does the announcement on Sunday leave the six State-guaranteed banks?

(1) AIB – still 18.6% State-owned today and likely to be 100% nationalised
(2) BoI – still 36.5% State-owned today and if the €2.199bn is to come from the State, the State will own over 70% of BoI. If the €214m preference share dividend due by BoI to the NPRF in February 2011 is paid in ordinary shares then the State share will increase to nearly 80%
(3) EBS – presently 100% owned by the State but offered for sale with two final bidders (a) ILP and (b) Cardinal Consortium with rumblings that ILP may have to drop out
(4) INBS – 100% state owned, deposits likely to move to new bank in association with Anglo, loans to be run down over time
(5) Anglo – 100% state owned, deposits likely to move to new bank in association with INBS, loans to be run down over time

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