Call for 'urgent' set-up of Northern committee on loan transfer process

 

BUSINESS LEADERS in the North are calling for the “urgent” creation of the Northern Ireland advisory committee of Nama, the National Asset Management Agency, to ensure Northern Irish business interests are “best represented” as the loan transfer process get under way.

Joanne Stuart, chairwoman of the Institute of Directors in the North, said it was crucial that the advisory committee gets up and running as soon as possible in order to “challenge” any decisions which could adversely affect either the local economy or local companies.

Ms Stuart said business leaders in Northern Ireland were hoping the committee, which will be chaired by Nama board member Peter Stewart, would be established within two weeks. It is understood the North’s Department of Finance and Personnel is in the process of nominating three representatives to sit on the committee.

No Northern Irish loans are among those moving in the first transfers.

A senior business leader said many Northern Ireland businesses appeared to be suffering from “mutual hostage syndrome” as a result of the meltdown in the Irish economy and its banking system.

Bro McFerran, managing director of AllState Northern Ireland and president of the North’s Chamber of Commerce, said Nama underlined just how intertwined the two economies on the island were. He said no business north of the Border could afford to ignore the potential impact Nama may have on the local economy.

Mr McFerran said that while his own business, one of the largest private sector employers in the North, had no exposure to Nama, he understood the concerns being voiced by major firms about the potential transfer of their loans.

He said that following the first loan transfers to Nama, it would not be surprising if some Northern companies sought to transfer their assets and liabilities out of Irish banks and perhaps into British-based financial institutions.

“There was an assumption previously in Northern Ireland that a business with property loans would be insulated from Nama because it was UK-based, even if that loan was with an Irish bank,” he said. “The Business Alliance in Northern Ireland has been getting the message out that local businesses cannot afford to ignore Nama, because it could very well be coming to you even if you have a performing loan – and that in itself is one of the big issues.

“The level of discount that could be applied by Nama to securities based in Northern Ireland in the months ahead is a major concern here.”

He said it was crucial that Nama does not apply “a one size fits all” approach to businesses in the North whose loans will be transferred to the agency.

Nama chairman Frank Daly and chief executive Brendan McDonagh have agreed to take part in a Chamber of Commerce event to discuss the agency’s role in May.