Cantillon: Apollo may pull out of race for Nama’s biggest loan sale

US fund Cerberus may be left as the only bidder for Project Arrow portfolio

Nama: just one bidder, the US fund Cerberus, may be left in contention for the Project Arrow loans. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Nama: just one bidder, the US fund Cerberus, may be left in contention for the Project Arrow loans. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Rumours persist that US fund Apollo could be about to pull out of the race to buy Project Arrow, the biggest loan portfolio that Nama has put up for sale to date.

The bubble-era loans were originally for a total of €7.2 billion, but the properties against which they were secured may now only be worth €900 million, one-eighth of the original figure, or possibly even less.

It is understood that Apollo Global Management was working on the due diligence that it needs to carry out ahead of submitting a final bid as recently as last week, so the State agency itself regards the fund as a live contender. However, that does not necessarily mean that it will stay in the auction.

One reason suggested for Apollo’s caution is that its advisers and bankers are not as enthusiastic as they once were about distressed assets in the Republic. Another is that it has been unable to find a partner to bid on the portfolio.

As another player, Goldman Sachs-Carval, has already left the race, were Apollo to leave, just one bidder would remain: another US fund, Cerberus. Its purchase of Nama’s Project Eagle portfolio of northern Irish-linked debt last year is now mired in controversy and a number of investigations.

Whatever the outcome of those inquiries, the fact that they are ongoing could make selling Project Arrow to Cerberus politically unpalatable, in some circles at any rate. That has sparked speculation that Nama may reopen the process to allow some of the other initial bidders, such as Lone Star, back in. Their indicative offers were not enough to get them through to the auction’s current round.

However, previous form indicates that political sensitivities do not particularly bother Nama. So any effort to get it to reopen a process, for those reasons at any rate, would be on a hiding to nothing. Nevertheless, that may not stop a few people from trying – and using suggestions that Apollo is pulling out to give them some leverage.

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