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Monday 27 March 2017

Anglo will be around for another decade yet

And more taxpayer money will be required if property falls further

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

ANGLO Irish Bank will be around for the next 10 years and will need more money from the taxpayer if property prices continue to fall.

That's what the bank's chief executive Mike Aynsley told the Sunday Independent when asked how long it would take to close down the troubled bank following the transfer last Thursday of €8.6bn of its deposit book to AIB.

While the move -- ordered by the High Court on foot of a request by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan -- was reported in certain media as being the first step in an 'orderly and speedy wind down' of the bank's operations, Mr Aynsley stressed that "massive losses" would be incurred by the taxpayer if he and his team rushed to offload assets.

"The mandate we [at Anglo] have is to get as much money back as possible for the taxpayer," Mr Aynsley said.

Explaining the bank's intended strategy, he added: "What this is about is putting a structure in place so there's flexibility in managing the disposal of assets in relation to what the market will take, so we don't depress asset prices.

"We've got portfolios in the US, the UK and Ireland. The US is probably the healthiest at the moment because the market is more buoyant, the UK is next, and the most difficult market is Ireland. You're looking at an asset disposal process that will be a bit quicker in the US, followed by the UK and followed by Ireland. If you said Ireland is going to take between seven and 10 years, at the other end you might say you're looking at four to seven years in the US [to dispose of assets].

"To dispose of these assets in the course of a year without taking massive losses is not a viable proposition."

And while the Anglo chief said he appreciated that taxpayers simply wanted the bank to "go away", this process had to be managed in a way that minimised losses. Asked for comment on Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny's assertion during the election campaign that "not another red cent" would go into Anglo Irish Bank once he got into government, Mr Aynsley said: "That's a pretty big statement when you think about it, isn't it? To make a statement in isolation, which unfortunately is something politicians are renowned for, it's often quite difficult to live up to.

"Let's say the property market fell another 50 per cent from its current level, well that will automatically mean losses in all the banks. Those losses would require more capital. So, it's a pretty big statement to make. They [politicians] try to appeal to everyone, and I think sometimes they tell stories that don't make sense."

On a more immediate note, Mr Aynsley said the bank would see its name and logo changed in the very near future. On this, he said: "The logo will disappear and the name also. We're going through a process to restructure the organisation. That'll happen as soon as we can get it done. We had gone through the process, and probably rightly so, going into an election, the current government doesn't want to be accused of just trying to change a name. It's been put on the back burner until after the election but the intention is to do that."

Sunday Independent

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