Tuesday 20 March 2018

Bad bank tightens grip on Mount Carmel private hospital

Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

NAMA has secured a mortgage over the Mount Carmel Private hospital in Dublin. The clinic is controlled by developer Gerry Conlon -one of the Maple 10.

The country's biggest public hospital St James's in Dublin had been in talks with Mount Carmel about a possible takover of the luxury medical facility.

However documents seen by the Irish Independent show that NAMA secured a charge over the Dublin hospital on September 19 - just two weeks after news of the talks broke.

The NAMA mortgage means the state agency is now first in line to be paid if the hospital is sold, and more importantly it means ownership of the hospital cannot be transferred without NAMA's consent

The hospital in the Dublin suburb of Churchtown is a full service medical facility but is best known to many as the last private maternity clinic in the country.

During the boom it benefited from an unprecedented demand from well-heeled expectant mothers who opted out of the state maternity system in favour of expensive private care.

However, the financial crash has seen a drop in demand for private care, driving Mount Carmel to respond with more affordable packages.

Mount Carmel is part of a group that also includes St Joseph's Hospital in Sligo and Aut Even Hospital in Kilkenny.

The negotiations with St James's Hospital are understood to only involve Mount Carmel Hospital, and there is no record of NAMA registering a charge over the other properties in the group.

NAMA was known to have been in talks with the Mount Carmel group about its €50m debt. Much of the debt was borrowed from AIB and later transferred to the agency.

Even though the debts are not traditional property loans they were transferred to NAMA because Mount Carmel Medical Group is controlled by developer Gerry Conlon.

He is best known as one of the so-called 'Maple 10' group of Anglo Irish Bank customers who became shareholders in the bank in 2008, under a deal that saw them buy some of Sean Quinn's then dangerously large holding in the lender.

Before that, Mr Conlon gained fame as one of the most successful property players of the boom, and particularly for the €320m sale of the Millennium Business Park in Naas, Co Kildare, which he part-owned.

The latest available accounts for the Mount Carmel Group show it was loss making at the end of 2008 and in talks with lenders after defaulting on some of the loans.

The group has debts with AIB -- which have been transferred to NAMA -- and with KBC.

While NAMA has now secured a charge over the Dublin hospital, the debts were already secured, including on the life insurance policy of Gerry Conlon.

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