The head of asset management at the National Asset Management Agency said the biggest issue facing the organisation was its ability to retain staff.
"The only thing I would worry about for Nama will be how difficult it will be for us, over the next couple of years, to retain the fantastic people that work for Nama," John Mulcahy said. "That's an unbelievable challenge for us and I don't have the answer to it."
Nama has made it known to Government that it is struggling to retain staff due to the fact that it is barred, largely speaking, from paying bonuses, and its staff were subjected to the Haddington Road pay cuts of up to 10 per cent imposed recently on public servants.
Mr Mulcahy gave a run through of Nama's actions over the past three years. He said it had let out 12,000 apartments, which were mostly empty, in order to generate cash flow to support the loans it had assumed from the banks.
“If you put your mind to it, from Ikea, for about €8,000 or €9,000 you can fit out an apartment and you can let it in about 8½ days and we are letting all our apartments. The alternative was just to sit and look at them.”
He said Nama finished out 5,000 apartments in London, nearly all of which have now been sold.
“We’ve have a good turn out of London and it’s probably best now to leave it to the locals again,” he added.
He said the agency had generated about €9 billion so far in asset and loan sales and has “generally” been selling assets with yields of 5 per cent or lower.
On Ireland, Mr Mulcahy said the property market is picking up. “There are grounds for optimism and certainly there’s a huge resurgence of interest from international investors. There is a body of international capital that buys the Irish story and thinks this is a good place to go.”
He suggested that the recovery will begin in Dublin and spread to Galway, Cork, Waterford and Limerick in that order.
“Interestingly enough, agricultural land has substantially recovered. We could sell agricultural land all day long. It just begs the question of where the credit is coming for that. Maybe its coming from under the mattress.”
Mr Mulcahy said Nama was “on target” to repay by 2020 all of the €30 billion in senior bonds that it issued on its original portfolio.
He said the agency was keen to work with the IDA and other organisations on projects that would bring a benefit to Ireland but stressed: “We are not a charity. We don’t like to give your money away.”
Separately, Britain has launched a legal challenge to the European Union’s cap on bankers’ bonuses which London fears will hurt its financial industry.
Finance minister George Osborne has long argued that Brussels has gone too far with reforms aimed at preventing a repeat of the financial crisis. But EU financial services chief Michel Barnier said the bonus cap was legal.
The EU law will limit a bonus to no more than a banker's fixed salary, or twice that level with shareholder approval.
The British treasury said the EU cap had been rushed through without any assessment of its impact and would push up bankers’ fixed pay, making the banks riskier rather than safer. “Regulation of pay in this manner goes beyond what is permitted in the EU treaty,” a treasury spokesman said.
(Additional reporting: Reuters)