independent

Monday 21 April 2014

ACC: Favourite lender of farmers burnt by Tiger-era choice

As if it was not difficult enough for businesses to borrow money, another lender hands back its licence and decides to turn its back on the burning wreck that is banking in Ireland.

ACC Bank is not alone and may not be the last foreign lender to conclude that it can take the losses here no more.

The victims here are the 180 people set to lose their jobs and firms large and small that will have one less lender to service their needs.

And the blame for this has to be laid squarely at the feet of the management of the bank during the so-called Tiger era.

Country manager Kevin Knightly spoke yesterday about the huge losses ACC has run up since the collapse in the property market in 2008.

Traditionally a farmers' bank, ACC had decided that property lending was the way to go.

It ended up with a loan book of €4bn, but some €1.2bn of that is now in trouble.

The pity is that if the 86-year-old bank had stuck to its original business of loans to the farming and agri-food sector it would not now be about to hand back its banking licence.

Head of tax at farmer-focused accountancy practice IFAC Declan McEvoy says very few of the farmers he works with are in trouble with loans they got from ACC.

And those in the dairy sector are doing particularly well, he says.

ACC is to continue to support and service its loans to those in the agriculture sector.

But there will be a huge concern now for those borrowers who are not part of the agriculture sector.

They will have to continue to service their loans but will be doing so at a bank that will no longer take deposits, operate current accounts and will no longer give them an overdraft.

Other banks will not want to take over the loans of these borrowers.

The ACC decision to cease banking here and concentrate on debt recovery is another blow for business lending.

ACC Bank joins Bank of Scotland, Irish Nationwide and Anglo Irish in the list of banks that have ceased to operate here.

And Danish-owned Danske Bank, which recently closed all its 27 branches, has had to continually deny that it too is on the point of exiting the market.

Irish Independent

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