Nama chief delivers upbeat progress report

London audience told agency not selling 'low-hanging fruit'

Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh said the agency had retained performing assets. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh said the agency had retained performing assets. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Sat, Mar 23, 2013, 10:10

The National Asset Management Agency ’s income of €1.2 billion a year in rents proves that it has not sold off the most valuable, easiest-to-sell loans and properties on its books, its chief executive has said.

“The big charge would be that Nama is selling all the low-hanging fruit first, therefore we would be stuck with assets that are not income-producing. We have completely disproved that,” Brendan McDonagh told the Chartered Accountants of Ireland (London ) branch.

The monthly recurring income of €100 million per month is “quite amazing”, he said, given that Nama has so far sold off €7 billion worth of assets in London and surrounding regions.

Delivering an upbeat assessment of Nama’s future, Mr McDonagh went on: “We are in a very good position, maybe a lot better than people would think.”

One-fifth of its remaining assets are in London, 12 per cent lie elsewhere in Britain, and 3 per cent are in Northern Ireland. In Wales, Nama holds €160 million worth of assets, although just €7 million is development land.

“The rest is income-producing,” he said, adding that in Scotland Nama holds €500 million in assets – but just €14 million is development, with the rest producing rent.

People believe, he said, that Nama has “all these assets in bad locations in Ireland, but we actually don’t,” adding that 94 per cent lies in Dublin, surrounding counties, or in major cities.

“We have 19 per cent in offices, 19 per cent in retail, 8 per cent in hotels and leisure, 3 per cent industrial, residential 12 per cent, while development land – 9 per cent, and the riskiest part of all – is a lot less than anybody would think,” he said.

“Everyone says that we own every hotel in Ireland. Fortunately, we don’t – we have 188 of 900. They are in the better locations,” he told the chartered accountants.

Some 36 of the hotels are in Dublin: “We have been able to show the Competition Authority that we are not engaged in this common complaint of predatory pricing.

“We don’t let our hotels do that. We make sure that they are washing their face and if they are not, then effectively we don’t support them,” he claimed.

Dealing with other “myths about Nama”, as he termed them, Mr McDonagh said it was alleged that “every single unfinished housing estate is ours, not true” – saying that 160 of the 1,500 examples are on its books.

Defending the developers who are working with Nama, he said: “Everyone thinks that every developer in Nama is a bad person; he isn’t. They are big employers, they directly employ about 10,000 people.”

He went on: “Everyone says we are ruining the golf industry in Ireland. Four hundred clubs in Ireland, 200 of those happened in the boom – absolutely mad stuff. We have got 17 of them, mainly attached to four-star hotels.”

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will be given details of Nama’s accounts next week, he said