Farmers storm AIB AGM over loan sales

Farmers enter into the AIB AGM, as the IFA stage a protest at Allied Irish Bank's AGM which was taking place in the Ballsbridge Hotel. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
Farmers enter into the AIB AGM, as the IFA stage a protest at Allied Irish Bank's AGM which was taking place in the Ballsbridge Hotel. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke

Claire Fox and David Chance

Farmers have urged AIB to "really back brave" and halt its decision to sell €1bn of its non-performing loans, many of which include farmer loans to US fund Cerebrus.

At a protest at the AIB AGM at the Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin, the IFA stormed the hotel to launch its national campaign against the bank’s plans to sell certain farmer loans as part of its most recent loan sale.

IFA Farm Business Chair Martin Stapleton stated that it was time AIB followed through on its advertising slogan of “backing brave” and halt its selling of farmer loans to US fund Cerebrus.

“Selling the loans to a fund that has no other way to work than to haul in the money as fast as they can is not the way to go for genuine Irish people doing their best to pay back the money they owe when often enduring considerable hardship in the process,” he said.

The IFA stage a protest outside the Allied Irish Bank's AIB AGM which was taking place in the Ballsbridge Hotel. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
The IFA stage a protest outside the Allied Irish Bank's AIB AGM which was taking place in the Ballsbridge Hotel. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke

“AIB need to get back to backing brave and backing the brave who are willing to back themselves. Nobody needs more courage than those who are willing to give their life’s work to pay back their debt. AIB need to restore their reputation with the Irish people and get back to being a pillar bank in this country.”

IFA Inputs Chair John Coughlan stated that many of the farmers’ loans that are set to be sold off to the fund were mid negotiations with AIB and are in the position to pay back what they owe but feel totally let down by the bank’s recent announcement.

“We’ve had loans that have been under discussion with AIB, and we find that they sold them off to vulture funds. We’re here today to tell them that it isn’t on, we won’t stand for it. We won’t allow any farmers’ land to be sold where there is an ability to repay the loan,” explained the Cork farmer.

“Farmers feel totally let down at how these loans have been sold mid-negotiation but got letters this week that it has been sold off. If any bank thinks that it can work that way, the reality is they can’t. Farmers have always paid their loans.”

Mr Coughlan also urged AIB to “back brave” farmers who have the capacity to pay back their loans.

The IFA stage a protest outside the Allied Irish Bank's AIB AGM which was taking place in the Ballsbridge Hotel. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke.
The IFA stage a protest outside the Allied Irish Bank's AIB AGM which was taking place in the Ballsbridge Hotel. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke.

“Farmers worked hard through the downturn to bring the country out of recession, and we have AIB telling us that they are backing brave. We have brave farmers who are prepared to pay back their loans, but AIB is not backing them if it is selling their loans off to vulture loans.”

AIB recently confirmed a controversial €1bn sale of bad loans, including mortgages, to US fund Cerberus.

The sale will see the portfolio acquired by Everyday Finance as part of a consortium with Everyday and affiliates of Cerberus Capital Management.

The bank said the collateral is mainly buy-to-let and investment properties but includes some farm land.

The portfolio consists of 2,200 non-performing customer loans, around 95pc of which have been non-performing for over two years.

Speaking at its AGM Catherine Woods Deputy Chair of AIB hailed the bank’s 2018 performance.

“We are working to become a truly sustainable bank that is not only profitable but also considerate of our role in society and the impact of our activities.”

She also pledged that the bank was “Continuing to rebuild trust."

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