NAMA sells off entire NI loans portfolio

The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) has sold its entire portfolio of Northern Ireland loans, it was confirmed today.

The loans involved original borrowings of £4.5bn (€5.4bn) and were secured by assets in the North, the Republic, Britain and other locations in Europe.

Among the assets were the Lanyon Plaza and the Soloist buildings in Belfast, developed by William Ewart properties.

It is the largest single transaction by the bad bank since it was set up to clear development loans from Ireland’s main banks.

In a statement NAMA said the terms of transaction are commercially sensitive and are not being disclosed but followed an extensive and competitive sales process involving bidders from Europe and the US.

NAMA is understood to have paid €1.3bn for a package of loans linked solely to assets and development in the North, which has formed part of the Project Eagle package.

“This transaction represents a significant achievement for NAMA," said NAMA Chairman Frank Daly and CEO Brendan McDonagh in a joint statement.

"It is NAMA’s biggest single transaction to date and we are satisfied that the sales process will deliver the best possible result for the Irish taxpayer."

The portfolio of loans was sold to affiliates of New York-based Cerberus Capital Management, one of the world's largest private investment firms. It consists of loans owned by Northern Ireland-based debtors and secured by assets in Northern Ireland, the Republic, Great Britain and other European locations.

Among the assets were the Lanyon Plaza and the Soloist buildings in Belfast, developed by William Ewart properties.

"We are excited and gratified to reach agreement on this significant, mutually beneficial transaction with NAMA," said John W. Snow, Chairman of Cerberus Capital Management.

"This investment, and the underlying assets in Ireland and other European markets, will be an important foundation for our overall European strategy."

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said he had talks with those behind the deal, including former US vice president Dan Quayle, and said it was excellent news.

“For some time I have made clear the danger to the local economy of leaving valuable assets undeveloped and the threat that these posed to otherwise profitable businesses. I believe that this deal can be of real benefit to our economy,” he said.

Mr Robinson also said he was grateful to the authorities in the Republic for the way the deal was handled.

He said: “I would also like to put on record my appreciation to Nama and the Finance Minister in the Republic of Ireland Michael Noonan for the constructive way they have worked with the Northern Ireland Executive over the sale of this portfolio.”

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