Another good week for Nama?
Cantillon: a muted welcome for plans to resurrect the U2 tower
Nama is to receive up to €100 million in relation to Treasury Holdings and its former chieftains Johnny Ronan (above) and Richard Barrett.
It isn’t popular to praise Nama, but sometimes the state’s favourite bad bank almost forces us into it. A muted welcome therefore for yesterday’s news that Nama and new friends Kennedy Wilson are breathing life into defunct plans to construct the so-called U2 tower, some five years after the original vision for the property dissolved in the fog of the financial crisis.
The new joint plans, to develop five acres in Dublin’s docklands, would see the scale of the tower roughly halved – offering a more suitable reflection of our new economic reality and probably a more viable project.
The fact that the agency has been sufficiently nimble and eager to jump into bed with Kennedy Wilson, as it recently has with others including Bennett Construction and Oaktree Capital, is positive – at least in the context that a dynamic Nama is better than a sedentary one, even if such strategies have attendant risks. We will be crossing our fingers.
More quantifiably positive for the agency this week was news that it was to receive up to €100 million in relation to Treasury Holdings and its former chieftains Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett. The money is to flow in as a result of agreements that avoided the need for litigation, another pleasing factor, albeit one that must be tempered by the less fruitful billions in debt housed by Nama.
And to top it off, the agency is receiving some international recognition through the appointment of its chairman Frank Daly to a senior tax advisory role in Greece. It’s not exactly the pinnacle of international finance, but it does illustrate how far Ireland and its agencies have come in differentiating themselves from other financially troubled spots. Hurrah?
Dividend strategy causes divisions
The Government this week has been knocking on the door of various State-owned companies looking for cash. It’s all part of a plan agreed in the budget to get €100 million in extra dividends from businesses in which it is either the sole or the 90 per cent-plus shareholder.
Three days ago, the ESB confirmed that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, wrote to it seeking an extra €65 million from the company, on top of the €74.4 million it recently handed over to the Exchequer following its annual general meeting.
Similar requests have been made of two other companies under Mr Rabbitte’s remit, Bord Gáis and Bord na Móna, although neither has said just how much is being sought. Their boards are considering the request, as is the ESB’s.
The ESB is the largest and is being asked for the lion’s share. Contributions from it and Bord Gáis, which has already paid €24 million in a regular dividend this year, would probably bring the figure very close to €100 million.
Apart from that those two, there is Dublin Airport Authority, but it is focusing on paying down its debt, and the 25 per cent sake in Aer Lingus, which delivered €5.36 million this year.
Then there is a motley crew consisting of Bord na Móna, Coillte, the ports, even the Irish Aviation Authority, which recently paid €5 million to the Exchequer, its first dividend for a number of years. These could be tapped for varying sums as well.