Despite NAMA’s extensive engagement at an official and commercial level in Northern Ireland, it remains exposed to accusations from all quarters that it is damaging the local economy. Today, NAMA is in the firing line from a disgruntled operator of a petrol station in Antrim town in county Antrim. British supermarket giant Asda already anchors the Junction One shopping outlet centre and wants to buy an adjacent petrol station which it is believed is owned by the Kennedy Group whose loans are now in NAMA. If Asda acquires a filling station, then in line with the supermarket’s pricing policy elsewhere in the UK, motorists might expect to pay 12c a litre less than standard for their motor fuel.
However NAMA is reported to have said that it need place the filling station property on the open market to ensure it gets the best deal for the taxpayer and that has infuriated the petrol station operator, identified as Paul Simpson, who complains to the local newspaper, The Antrim Guardian “we had to run the deal past NAMA and after seven or eight weeks they came back and said it was a ‘no’..they said the station would have to be put on the open market for a number of months to ensure that this was the market price, even though Asda were offering above the odds.” The newspaper goes on to quote Paul saying NAMA “is holding a gun to the head of Antrim motorists” by not doing a deal with Asda.
NAMA will no doubt say that it has a duty to ensure that it achieves the best price for all property under its control and that it is the open market that determines the “going rate” and that it won’t be bounced into transactions by someone with a vested interest making a bee-line to the local newspaper.