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Archive for April 25th, 2012

NAMA must be becoming quite the expert in the car-parking business. For a time, the rear of the Anglo HQ shell site on North Wall Quay was used as a car-park (see photo above). It seems that another Liam Carroll site, this time behind the Spar shop in Cherrywood (see photo below), which was earmarked for development with piled foundations already in place, is now being covered over with the intention of providing car-parking.

And today, London’s Evening Standard is reporting that the Battersea Power Station site in Wandsworth on the banks of the Thames in London (see photo below) is to be transformed into a police car-park for the Olympic games, now only three months away; the report says that 350 vehicles will use the 35-acre site as a car-park. The site is currently in administration and is being marketed for sale by Knight Frank.

What next, a NAMA vacancy advertisement for a Head of Car Parking?

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The 11 little words tucked away at the bottom of NAMA’s aims as set out in section 2 of the NAMA Act have yet again come back to bite the Agency on the bum. This week, it is a community group from Granard in county Longford that is aiming to take a bite out of NAMA’s portfolio by lobbying for a 15-acre parcel of land plus two commercial buildings just south of Granard on the Edgeworthstown road. The group – pictured here demonstrating outside the property – is led by Granard parish priest Father Simon Cadam, and they hope to use the property to generate 10 jobs and to stimulate local tourism. The Longford Leader reports that the group hopes to create what they call an “interpretative centre” to support the tourism drive – an interpretative centre is a place which promotes information on local heritage.

So why is the group at loggerheads with NAMA? NAMA, it seems, is going to put the property up for auction, but the group had hoped that they could have bought it directly. NAMA says that it must secure the best possible price for the property whereas the group says that NAMA should be supporting the economic and social development of the area. Implicit in all of this is the assumption that NAMA thinks it can get a better price for the property at auction or is sufficiently concerned that it may not be getting the best price from the community group.

Of course NAMA hasn’t exactly helped its severe stance with the community group by having previously donated a €300,000 painting to the National Gallery describing the donation as “a goodwill gesture to the National Gallery and to the Irish people to offer the National Gallery one piece of art from the collection for free given the fact that they advised it was of importance to the heritage of Ireland” What does NAMA now say to the people of Granard who would now appear to be seeking “a goodwill gesture”.

It seems that the community group will make a submission to NAMA tomorrow 26th April, presumably in the hope that the auction will be cancelled and the property sold to the community group. The property appears to be listed on the latest NAMA foreclosure list as a “Development – Not Commenced” and “Agricultural Land” in Rathcronan and Ballymacross in Granard. Groups elsewhere in Ireland will be watching to see how NAMA deals with this property.

UPDATE: 19th May, 2012. It seems that the local Granard community group has submitted a bid worth €265,000 to NAMA for the 15-acres and two commercial units, and it is claimed this is the highest bid. The group is critical of NAMA and claims that NAMA is not fulfilling its commercial remit, a charge NAMA rejects.  The financing for the bid is unclear and there is reference to unspecified grants and funding from a “social investment organisation, Clann Credo”

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It was pretty shocking yesterday to see the complete listing of the 80-odd legal actions taken in Dublin’s High Court in 2010 by sub-prime mortgage lender, GE Money Ireland, but the list of actions this year initiated by NAMA is beginning to grow into the same ballpark. Yesterday the Agency lodged an application against two ofIreland’s best-known developers, the colourful John (Johnny) Ronan and the under-stated Richard Barrett together with their flagship development company, Treasury Holdings. The case reference is 2012/4092 P, there are two NAMA entities taking the action – National Asset Management Agency and National Asset Loan Management Limited, both represented by Dublin solicitors, William Fry. The presence of National Asset Management Agency as one of the plaintiffs is unusual and may signify there are matters of great importance at issue.

Of course, NAMA is in the wars with Treasury Holdings at present. Last month Treasury won the right to have NAMA’s dealings with its loans subjected to a judicial review. And last week the parties were back in court with NAMA seeking security for costs for the forthcoming judicial review on account of the fact that Treasury is massively balance sheet-insolvent. The judge may make a decision on the issue of costs this week, though it is noteworthy that NAMA has abandoned its application for a so-called “fortified undertaking” from Messrs Ronan and Barrett personally to foot the costs; if Treasury loses the judicial review of course.

We don’t yet have details of the current application. 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.

UPDATE: 26th April, 2012. The Irish Independent reports today ” NAMA is undertood (sic) to be claiming that the deal amounts to an asset transfer.” Hmm, maybe it means unlawful asset transfer or asset transfer designed to place assets beyond the reach of creditors. The TAIL transaction referred to in the article is detailed here.

UPDATE: 27th April, 2012. The Irish Times reports a reaction from Treasury to this case. It is, according to the newspaper “surprised and puzzled” by NAMA’s application and “we remain open to discussing and agreeing the resolution of this issue without the need for a further expensive outing in the courts funded by the taxpayer” said Treasury (hopefully).

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“our original plan with the major debtors was to put memoranda of understanding in place and then carry out full restructurings. We discovered that when we got past those debtors – these were the top 30 – we decided it would be more efficient to consider the documentation and then draft letters of support where the documentation is fine. We only fix documentation which needs to be rectified. It was about streamlining the process and getting everything done much quicker.” NAMA CEO Brendan McDonagh speaking before an Oireachtas committee in March 2012

In the beginning, NAMA told us that it was going to consider developers’ business plans and would enter into agreements with those worth saving and working with; all fine and dandy. Then NAMA explained that “an agreement” comprised three sequential documents – memorandum of understanding, heads of terms and final full agreement – and that all three needed to be signed by NAMA, the developer and in some instances, the developer’s spouse. And then there was a procession of weasel words which had the effect of “bigging up” NAMA’s progress with these finalising these agreements. Then last summer, well over a year after NAMA had acquired the first tranche of loans, it was RTE presenter Mariane Finnucane who finally wheedled the truth from the NAMA chairman Frank Daly – only one developer was close to signing all three documents. And then last month, NAMA finally admitted to TDs and senators that it had abandoned the formal agreement approach and was now just working informally with developers based on business plans. It doesn’t exactly look like sure-footed management brilliance on NAMA’s part.

Northern Ireland developer, McAleer and Rushe has just filed its accounts – available here – for the year ending 31st March 2011. McAleer and Rushe has some interests on this side of the Border but is perhaps better known for its development on Baker Street in London, the sale of the W Hotel in Leicester Square also in London and recently has announced the development of a major hotel in Manchester. The county Tyrone developer employs just over 100 people and has actually recorded an operating profit for 2011 of GBP 546,987 (€650k).

But lo and behold, in a note to the accounts, it is stated that the company has entered into a “medium term formal funding agreement” which expires in March 2016. This is the second confirmation of a NAMA funding agreement we have recently;  although not quite as formal a communication, veteran TV personality Mike Murphy said in an interview a week ago that Pat Doherty’s Harcourt Developments  “has reached an amicable arrangement with NAMA that will stretch over a number of years”. Pat is presently busy with the operation of the Titanic exhibition in Belfast. So despite NAMA’s claims to have abandoned the formal agreement route, two Northern Ireland developers have agreements with NAMA; as with the disposal of developers’ mansions, maybe NAMA does things differently there…

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