Bondholders safe even if opposition win election
Published 09/12/2010 | 05:00
Senior EU officials have told international investors that even a new Irish government will not be allowed to remove the protection which has been given to senior bondholders in the banks.
In a private phone call this week with hedge funds and other investors from across Europe, the EU team which negotiated Ireland's rescue package, reassured the firms that senior bondholders cannot be burned as part of the €85bn rescue package, even if Fine Gael and Labour seek to reopen the question.
The Irish Independent, which has seen extracts from the call organised by Deutsche Bank, understands the EU team described the protection for senior bondholders as an "integral part" and a "building block" of the entire plan.
Forcing discounts or "haircuts" on senior bondholders is not a part of the programme that will be discussed during quarterly reviews, the EU officials made clear. The EU team said other details could be discussed.
The disclosure is a major blow to the Labour Party which is pushing to force losses on senior bondholders, by introducing a so-called resolution regime for banks.
The party's finance spokeswoman Joan Burton said recently: "What we need is a banking resolution regime in place, where you could have a negotiated settlement with all bondholders, including senior bondholders, if a bank goes bust."
Hedge funds and asset managers peppered the EU team with questions about senior and junior bondholders, with several questions about the opposition's approach differing from that of Fianna Fail and the Green Party.
The EU team said its approach would make a "obvious distinction" between viable and non-viable banks. The team said the kind of burden sharing to be imposed on junior bondholders would come down to what kind of bank was involved.
It will come down to the "quantum" of taxpayers' money which has gone into the bank, said the EU official.
One questioner wanted to know whether the state's own investment in AIB would be wiped out first, before any senior bondholders were hit. "I don't have answers to those questions now,'' said the EU official.
But he reiterated that the programme did not include any plans to impose burden sharing on senior bondholders.
Overall, the EU team were upbeat about Ireland's prospects, particularly the export sector. The call, which is believed to have involved Istvan P Szekely, mission chief of the European Commission for Ireland, was warned that there were risks to the €85bn plan.
"We have to be humble,'' said one of the EU team, pointing out that Ireland's restructuring was one of the largest tried by a European country. "The extent to which we can predict this is limited," he said.