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Archive for April 14th, 2012

As NAMA’s enforcement action continues apace, it’s interesting to look back at the Top 30 developers – “Top 30” as suggested by press speculation, NAMA doesn’t comment on these things – and see who are the Drowned and the Saved.

 

Of the 30, there has been enforcement action against 13, or 14 if you count NAMA’s possession of Noel Smyth’s art collection and it should be said that it was association with Bernard McNamara’s Radora which pulled David Courtney and Jerry O’Reilly onto that list, their other companies appear to have escaped NAMA’s foreclosure action. Four developers are now understood to be definitely working with NAMA – the latest news is from an interview published today with former Harcout director and Irish TV personality, Mike Murphy who says “but as it happens, the company [Harcourt] has reached an amicable arrangement with NAMA that will stretch over a number of years” Taking these words at face value, it seems that Harcourt, controlled by Pat Doherty is now one of the NAMA Saved. The fate of the other 12 developers in the Top 30 remains to be determined it seems, but if they have survived with NAMA for two years since their loans were acquired in 2010, the betting is that most won’t become Drowned.

Mike Murphy’s interview might have attracted the antennae of observers for other reasons – “when you are developing a site like Park West, and you are seen to be a large-ish entity, you are moving into a neighbourhood where you are expected to look after people”. Another planning enquiry anyone?

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Yesterday NAMA made an application to Dublin’s High Court against a group of developers Thomas O’Reilly, James Staunton, Peter Staunton, Patrick Staunton, Ita Staunton, John Staunton and Joan Rowland. It is believed this is a group of county Mayo developers. The applicant is a NAMA group company, National Asset Loan Management Limited and is being represented by Dublin solicitors, Joynt and Crawford, which I believe is the first time this firm has been used by NAMA. The case reference is 2012 3759 P.

We don’t yet have details of the application, there is no solicitor on record for the defendants and there is no scheduled hearing at the court. In the past, NAMA has taken legal action against individuals to enforce personal guarantees or secure personal judgments, but it should be stressed that we do not know if either of these objectives lies behind the current application.

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Of the Week..

Table of the Week

You’ll be hearing a lot about Denis O’Brien, Ireland’s second richest man – Indian born Pal Mistry, pictured here, is no 1 with an estimated personal wealth of €6bn – in the next couple of months, as the Independent News and Media group’s annual general meeting hoves into view on 8th June. Independent News and Media (IN&M) is the heavily indebted, loss-making group, which is haemorrhaging shareholder value and is the company behind the Independent, Sunday Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday World, Belfast Telegraph and a number of provincial titles – it also has newspapers in South Africa and New Zealand. The betting is that Denis, who owns 22% of IN&M, will make his move in June to oust Gavin O’Reilly as CEO. The O’Reilly clan, headed by patriarch “Sir” Anthony own 13% of IN&M and won’t want to lose influence without a fight. Dermot Desmond, who owns 6% of IN&M, may become a kingmaker. Meantime, if recent reportage in the Independent is anything to go by, you can expect all sorts of mud to be slung. Maybe the Independent might finally get underneath the bonnet and try to validate Denis’s wealth, which appears to be hidden behind a maze of private companies, though it is mostly understood to derive from Digicel, the mobile phone operator – countries where Digicel operates are shown above together with their 2011 Transparency International corruption perceptions index. You can expect lots of reporting like this in the Independent in the next couple of months.

Here are the protagonists, along with IN&M’s chairman, James Osborne.

Quote of the Week

“What we need is a structured and enquiring debate on this issue, not tired polemics from the prancing ponies of polarised politics” Fianna Fail deputy and until recently the deputy party leader, Eamon O’Cuiv on 5th April, 2012

This may be the last weekend that you’re not bombarded with reporting, warnings, threats and come-hithers for the forthcoming referendum on 31st May when you are being asked to approve the Fiscal Compact. The reason for the relative silence on the subject is the politicians are enjoying a three-week break, but they’ll be back in our faces next week as campaigning gets off in earnest. The latest poll suggests that out of every 10 voters, 5 will be for, 3 against and 2 undecided. So it may be close. Deputy O’Cuiv is against the Fiscal Compact unless Ireland gets concessions, principally on its bank debt. His speech at the end of last week is at odds with the overall Fianna Fail position, and you can’t help wonder who he is referring to as “prancing ponies”. Giddy-up there Micheal, giddy-up?

“I have not been approached by any agency of the State in connection with the opinions of the Moriarty Tribunal” Tipperary North deputy, Michael Lowry on 10th April, 2012

He’s had all he can take, and he can take no more. The independent TD Michael Lowry finally issued a statement on Tuesday in which he attacked ongoing reporting and comment on his standing following the publication a year ago of the Moriarty Tribunal report which had some damning findings in respect of the TD’s behaviour during the award of a lucrative mobile phone licence in 1995 when Deputy Lowry was the minister for telecommunications. It certainly came as a surprise to many that a full year after the publication of the report, that the Deputy has not even been questioned by, for example, the Gardai, and indeed it seems unfair to most people that reputations can be tarnished – to the point of implying criminality – in an authoritative Tribunal but afterwards there is no apparent follow up by the State agencies. Deputy Lowry meanwhile remains in a bad temper and told the Independent during the week “I have things to do, I have positive things to do and I’m not interested in reading the sh*t that ye’re writing anymore”

Déjà vu of the Week?

September, 1995

“they [Minister Michael Lowry and Denis O’Brien] happened to encounter each other during the half-time interval; and they happened to arrange to meet later . . . [they] repaired to Hartigans pub, where they remained alone for some half hour and talked of nothing other than the match”

March, 2012

“He [Minister Phil Hogan] did briefly bump into Denis O’Brien. They bumped into each other and exchanged pleasantries. They spoke for a matter of moments,”

It should be said that both Denis O’Brien and Deputy Michael Lowry reject the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal report, that the report doesn’t have the status of a legal judgment, and that since the publication of the report, neither Denis O’Brien nor Deputy Lowry has been charged with any crime. However it will now be interesting to see how the Government interacts with Denis O’Brien – will he be “shunned” and if he is, will Ministers pass him by, holding their noses, but at the same time hand his companies – for example, Siteserv – millions in public service contracts?

Outrage of the Week

On Thursday night, two politicians found out on live TV that an expense allowance existed which was hitherto unknown to them. On the Vincent Browne show, you had two politicians – “one on my left and one on my far left” said panellist Elaine Byrne wittily and maybe premeditatedly – Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello and Socialist Party deputy, Joe Higgins were both found to be ignorant of a new Statutory Instrument signed into law by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin; a Statutory Instrument which allowed TDs and senators to claim expenses for PR and other activities.

On the same show, political editor at the Independent, Fionnan “stick two bolts in my neck and call me Adam (Frankenstein)” Sheahan could hardly contain his umbrage as both politicians doubted a report, seemingly penned by Fionnan in Thursday’s Independent, which detailed the new expense arrangements. Yet the two veteran politicians genuinely seemed to be unaware of the new expense arrangement.

That there be a pristine gift-wrapped trough that has gone unnoticed for two months – the Statutory Instrument came into effect on 1st February 2012 – is truly beyond the Pale. And wouldn’t you know it, within 24 hours, Minister Howlin has been summoned lickety-split to appear before the 27-member finance committee at the Oireachtas next Wednesday to answer questions on the new expense arrangements.  It is plainly unacceptable to Irish politicians that we have a situation where said politicians are unaware of their full entitlements.

A real outrage.

Photograph of the Week

 

Of course, for many the real outrage this week will have been the payment of €1.5bn to senior unsecured, unguaranteed bondholders at AIB, a banking group that has to date received €20.7bn of a bailout from the taxpayer and which is now  99.8% owned by us. The common perception is the bondholders are German and French banks, though at this stage, they are just as likely to be hedge funds in Gibraltar or Grand Cayman. Meanwhile at home, the indigenes fight over a €160m household charge.

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