Sunday 21 January 2018

The Quinn connection

It is early 2008. Global credit markets are tightening and banks around the world are running out of cash. Bear Stearns, a giant American investment bank, is a few months from collapsing. The world's financial crisis is about to claim a titan. Meanwhile, in Dublin, an overblown bank called Anglo Irish Bank is being ripped apart at the seams. In the chaos, its executives believe that the reason their bank is failing is the country's richest man, Sean Quinn, who has taken a gigantic bet on Anglo. In this section of the Anglo Tapes, John Bowe, the bank's head of treasury, and Matt Moran, the bank's chief financial officer, are discussing how they are meeting different hedge funds in London. The two men suspect the funds are betting against their bank and making money every time its share price falls. Having discussed this prospect, the two men's conversation turns to the then multibillionaire Sean Quinn. The Fermanagh businessman is the owner of a massive insurance-to-cement conglomerate employing thousands of people. He is widely considered Ireland's richest man.

JB: So, better day than I thought on the equity side.

MM: Well it was a day of a swing of nearly 12 per cent.

JB: Yeah I know. Jeesh...

MM: We went from [€]8 to [€]9.22.

JB: Em. I was just looking at. Everything was down yesterday. I was just thinking of your man, em, north of, south of the Border [Sean Quinn].

MM: Yeah, yeah. How is his hole at the moment?

JB: Well, it is one thing when we drop. But if Ryanair drops, if Kingspan drops then [Quinn also has share positions in these stocks].

MM: Oh yeah. It is all getting f**king hammered.

JB: Yeah. It has got to be [voice drops to whisper]. If it is 26 per cent and he's in at [€]14.50 [This is the price of the bank's shares when Anglo believes Quinn took most of his position].

MM: Oh Jesus.

JB: I thought it was [€]14 but I didn't think it was higher. It's got a 14 in front of it. It is 14.50 or 14.20 so he's off, he's off by, he's lost five-and-a-half by . . . he's down just over a bill [€1bn].

MM: Yeah, yeah.

JB: And he's got that and other stocks. He is losing on Kingspan and Ryanair as well.

MM: Yeah.

JB: He is but I believe it is much smaller.

MM: Yeah.

JB: But it could be another three or [€]400 million. Em, no f**king . . . the problem is that, and you can see it. He is coming in late every day so he is actually adding to his position. (Whispers) He's gone from 25 to 26-and-a-half [per cent of the bank's shares] in the last while, you know.

MM: Yeah, yeah.

JB: Probably in the mid-15s. Because anybody even f**king listening to that. It is frightening. The thing is that, Matt, it is not like a guy who can sell and realise cash. There is no cash to be raised here. So, all he does is he cuts the position and he reduces the downside at a loss. He sells something to fill it. Jesus, he would want to be selling an awful lot.

MM: The market is bigger than any man. It is the great leveller.

JB: Yeah, it is isn't it?

MM: (Whispers) You stupid c**t. He really put us at risk.

JB: Well. In a way you know. I think you are right in the short term. You know what I mean, in the longer term it is only himself. But in the short term if he was to start cutting the position it would obviously kill the share price.

MM I think it could be, my fear, although I am a little bit less as the market is a bit different. My fear would be that exactly as your man from em . . . [names a UK stock-market investor]. He is the head guy. He walks into the meeting 20 minutes late. He says I don't know what you're covered but can you answer me this question? The shorts, short the f**k out of you, they smoke out Quinn, he starts to rattle, you get a float, front page of the Irish press is you are not at [€]6, [€]5 [Anglo's share price] going down, your f**king deposit base is gone, how do you answer that?

[Conversation continues between the two men.]

MM: So keep praying. Alright?

JB: Alright. Bye.

Irish Independent

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