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Saturday 3 December 2016

Value of State's stake in banks falls by €10bn

NTMA chief tells politicians of huge losses -- mainly on AIB

Emmet Oliver, Deputy Business Editor

Published 07/10/2011 | 05:00

National Treasury Management Agency chief John Corrigan (centre) and other members of the NTMA team arriving at Kildare St yesterday for the hearing of the Public Accounts Committee into national debt management
National Treasury Management Agency chief John Corrigan (centre) and other members of the NTMA team arriving at Kildare St yesterday for the hearing of the Public Accounts Committee into national debt management

THE value of the State's investments in AIB and Bank of Ireland has plunged by €10.1bn, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) has revealed -- with AIB the main cause of the decline.

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The NTMA has been forced to mark the shares in AIB and Bank of Ireland strictly to market prices, leaving it nursing huge losses, said John Corrigan, the agency's chief executive.

However, he added that a recovery in values could not be ruled out in future years.

Using mark-to-market accounting, ordinary shares and preference shares in the two banks have tumbled in value, with AIB, in particular, causing an €8.8bn drop.

Investments in Bank of Ireland have also slid by €1.3bn.

Mr Corrigan said the NTMA was being "very conservative" in relation to the value of its AIB investment. Shares were trading this week at about four cent. He said the NTMA was valuing them at one cent.

"The situation is quite volatile,'' he said, remarking that volumes of trading in AIB and Bank of Ireland shares were "very thin".

The NTMA holds investments in its 'non-discretionary portfolio', which is separate from its normal portfolio of bonds, property and private-equity holdings.

The original state investment in the two banks was €20.9bn, NTMA staff explained to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee yesterday.

"It is a very fluid situation,'' Mr Corrigan said, denying that the value lost would become permanent.

"To suggest the money is written off forever is not necessarily the case,'' he said.

While the Bank of Ireland and AIB investments could recoup value in the long term, the money invested in Anglo Irish Bank was "gone" said Mr Corrigan. All the State could do now, he explained, was try to negotiate on the €30bn of promissory notes to Anglo.

Pension fund

Attempts are being made to finance these via Europe and the European Financial Stability Facility, said Mr Corrigan.

He explained that the notes were paying an 8pc interest rate, but cutting this back would leave Anglo Irish with a capital hole that would have to be filled.

"We are looking at it,'' he said.

Mr Corrigan also revealed that the NTMA was leading the push to impose losses on subordinated bond holders, which were reducing the cost of the bank bailout bill from €24bn to around €16.5bn.

Talking about the NTMA unit involved in these burden sharing exercises, Mr Corrigan said: "The banks wouldn't have been as aggressive as us.''

The NTMA also revealed that there was only €5.3bn left in the National Pensions Reserve Fund.

The chairman of the fund, Paul Carty, admitted that this amount was nowhere near enough to meet future pension liabilities of the public sector.

"I'm guessing now, but covering 30pc to 50pc is the best we can do,'' said Mr Carty.

He explained that raids on the pension fund to pay for the banks and the IMF/EU programme meant that pension liabilities would have to be met by the markets.

"We're then relying on the markets to generate the return,'' he told committee members.

The NTMA has been selling €10bn worth of equities in the last year and has purchased "put options" to insulate itself from current market turbulence, added Mr Carty.

Irish Independent

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