Irish Life sells Nama stake to UK company
A FORMER Barclays banker who is among the new shareholders in the National Asset Management Agency’s ownership company was involved in a scheme to remove toxic assets from Barclay’s books that a top UK regulator described as “pushing the envelope too far”.
Nama yesterday said Irish Life had sold its 17 per cent stake in the special purpose vehicle that owns the loans agency to London company Walbrook Capital. One of the firms’s three founders is Australian lawyer Michael Keeley, who worked for the structured credit division of UK bank Barclays.
Mr Keeley, as a member of a 45-strong structured credit team at Barclays, was involved in a scheme designed by the bank to move $12.3 billion (€9.4 billion) of toxic credit market assets off the balance sheet of the bank in 2009.
The executives were asked to manage the run-down of the assets through a New York hedge fund called C12 Capital Management in a scheme the bank called Protium.
The scheme was later reversed by Barclays after UK regulators raised concerns with the bank.
Andrew Bailey, the highest-ranking UK bank supervisor, attended a board meeting of Barclays in February and queried the buccaneering culture at the bank.
The Protium scheme was described by the regulator as “pushing the envelope too far”. Details of the intervention emerged in the controversy over Barclays’ role in the rate-rigging Libor scandal which led to the departure of chief executive Bob Diamond.
A spokesman for Walbrook and Mr Keeley declined to comment on Protium, while a Nama spokesman also had no comment.
A source close to Walbrook said Mr Keeley was part of the Barclays team asked to manage the Protium assets but this was led by the bank rather than the team itself.
Walbrook was set up in 2011 by Geoff Broomhead and Simon Haworth who worked with Mr Keeley at Barclays Capital. They left Barclays in 2009 to manage Protium but ties with C12 and Walbrook have since been severed.
The sale of Irish Life’s 17 per cent stake in National Asset Management Agency Investment Limited keeps loans of €74 billion at the country’s “bad bank” off the balance sheet of the Government.
The vehicle was structured to give private investors a 51 per cent stake in Nama’s ownership to satisfy EU accounting rules that the agency’s liabilities were sitting off the State’s books.
Irish Life was an original 17 per cent shareholder in the Nama vehicle with the fund management units of Bank of Ireland and AIB.
The Government’s takeover of Irish Life as part of the bailout of Permanent TSB threatened to bring ownership of Nama’s SPV into majority State control given that the Government had 49 per cent of the Nama vehicle.
Walbrook’s acquisition of the stake for an undisclosed sum, understood to be less than the €17 million Irish Life originally paid, puts Nama’s SPV back into majority private hands.
Mr Keeley, a senior partner in Walbrook, said the decision to invest in Nama “followed a careful assessment of the outlook for the Irish economy and in particular its property sector, which we believe is now close to stabilisation.”
Walbrook said that it invests in long-term credit, property and renewable energy assets.