Cheap property sales won’t help NI economy, says Nama chief
Frank Daly insists assets will only be sold if and when the price is right
Nama boss Frank Daly has hit back at critics who claimed Nama’s retention of properties was stifling growth in the property market. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Even though the National Asset Management Agency has about £24 million (€28.1 million) worth of land and property for sale north of the Border, its chairman insisted assets would only be sold if and when the price was right.
“We are not going to give away assets — North or South,” he said.
Mr Daly was in Belfast to brief about 200 business delegates on challenges facing the agency over the past three years. He hit back at critics who claimed Nama’s retention of properties was stifling growth in the property market.
“Flooding the market, either in the Republic or Northern Ireland, makes no sense at a time when demand is still relatively weak and credit availability is limited,” he added.
“We know that banks are not lending or may not yet have the capacity to lend at normalised levels, and this remains a challenge. The only beneficiaries of the market-flooding approach would be some cash-rich short-term investors who would like to buy assets at distressed prices, generate a quick return and then exit - leaving the rest of us, at best, back where we started.”
Later, Mr Daly said: “We said we wouldn’t hoard but neither would we fire-sell. As the market improves and as demand improves we will certainly be selling. When the value is there and the demand is there and we can get a reasonable price, we will sell.”
Nama is working to recover £2.4 billion lent into Northern Ireland. It has 130 residential and commercial properties as well as land for sale.
So far it has has invested £141 million in commercially viable projects. This includes the £15 million to finance the completion of two offices at Lanyon Place in Belfast city centre and the £9 million to fund a 95-unit housing development at Millmount in Dundonald on the outskirts of east Belfast.
Mr Daly said they expected to make further investments in Grade A office accommodation and the refurbishment of large-scale commercial properties and were keen to contribute to the delivery of social housing, where commercially viable, and were working with the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations.
Mr Daly also revealed that some Northern Ireland debtors whose properties were placed into receivership as a result of enforcement action had spoken positively about their experience with the so-called bad bank.
“Some of our debtors in Northern Ireland have actually had kind things to say about Nama recently,” he added.
“Working with Nama, being in Nama is not the death sentence that everybody thought it was going to be three years ago. There are people working quite successfully with us.”
The event at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast city centre was organised by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.
Its chief executive Ann McGregor said the event had provided a valuable insight into future activity by Nama.
She said: “This is a pivotal time for businesses, especially for property developers and the construction industry. It is therefore vital that if extra funding is made available by Nama to Northern Ireland that opportunities are seized to develop sites which have lain dormant, create much needed office space in cities and overall revitalise the property landscape in the province.”