IAIM warns against 'excessive' Nama discount


Ireland should resist political pressure to underpay for the €90 billion of property loans it’s seeking to purge from banks, according to the head of the country’s fund management industry group.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan will on September 16th signal how much the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) will pay when it buys the loans at a discount from lenders such as Bank of Ireland and AIB.

“I strongly believe that the Department of Finance and agency understand that while they have to be fair to the taxpayer, the key audience is international financial markets,” said Frank O’Dwyer, who heads the Irish Association of Investment Managers in Dublin.

“An excessive haircut, with any taint of political motivation, any sense of ‘let’s stick it to these guys,’ would erode confidence.”

Nama will remove up to €90 billion of performing and underperforming loans from the balance sheets of Irish banks, allowing them to resume lending again.

The discount will determine how much new capital the banks need and whether the state is forced to take majority stakes.

Fine Gael today described the agency as a “gamble” and said that Ireland could pay too much for the loans.

The opposition Labour party said it exposes the taxpayer to risks from assets ”whose values are bloated and over-inflated.”

The agency’s task is to find a “zone of rightness” for the discount, Mr O’Dwyer, whose members manage about €300 billion, said on August 10th.

Overpaying for the loans could mean a future “loss levy” for the banks, while underpaying could leave them starved of capital, Mr O’Dwyer said, forcing the Government to pump in more cash and increase its shareholdings.

Ireland has already nationalized Anglo Irish and pumped €7 billion into Bank of Ireland and AIB.

"The only certain game in town in relation to capital is the State," said Mr O’Dwyer, (50), a chartered accountant and former adviser at the finance ministry.

Nama has hired HSBC to help them with their valuations and the Government said in draft legislation last month that it will price them at their "long-term economic value" based on factors including demographics, demand and economic growth.

The discount will relate to the size of the loan and the “significant” provisions banks have already taken, Mr O’Dwyer said.