FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has asked the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) to weigh up the pros and cons of selling off its property quickly.
Mr Noonan said yesterday the increase in demand for property meant that the market "would be able to carry a big sale at this point". One reason why NAMA has been slow to sell property is the fear that the market could be destabilised if large amounts of property were sold in one go. Recent price rises and a surge in demand for office space in Dublin means these fears have receded.
In Brussels yesterday, Mr Noonan told reporters that he had instructed senior NAMA officials to look at the various options, but he said no decisions had yet been taken.
"But when I come around to making decisions, I want the decisions to be evidence-based," the minister said.
Under the NAMA Act, a review must be carried out this year into NAMA's operations. NAMA was originally meant to have sold off all property by the end of the decade. The NAMA review will examine how much progress has been made towards its objective of recovering as much money as possible for the taxpayers from the loans it has acquired.
The Comptroller and Auditor General is also examining the agency. "I want them to explore the implications of bringing forward the sale, because the market would be able to carry a big sale at this point.
"I just want to see the pros and cons of bringing it forward as against leaving it against the intended timeline. No policy decision yet."
'The Sunday Business Post' reported at the weekend that NAMA was looking at a rapid disposal of its remaining €22bn loan book. Separately, Mr Noonan also said the Government was concerned at the lack of housing supply in Dublin. NAMA is putting around €2bn of loans on the market this week as the sell-off of its Irish portfolio continues. The agency is expected this week to put up a 'for sale' sign on loans linked to Cork-based developer Michael O'Flynn. The loans have a face value of €1.8bn.
The balance of this week's sale is €200m of loans linked to Dublin developer Brian O'Farrell, one of the so-called 'Maple 10' group of investors who bought shares in Anglo Irish Bank from Sean Quinn in 2008.