Friday 19 January 2018

Billionaire power players pick over wreckage of Anglo – but how many deals will be done?

BIG HITTERS: clockwise from top left, Galen Weston, John Grayken, Ellis Short, David Bonderman, Martin Broughton and Denis O’Brien
BIG HITTERS: clockwise from top left, Galen Weston, John Grayken, Ellis Short, David Bonderman, Martin Broughton and Denis O’Brien

Roisin Burke

There might be little lounging around in bed or noshing brunch over the Sunday papers today for KPMG's Anglo loan-book posse. They say they have been busy this weekend tearing open envelopes and vetting the bids inside for loans attached to some of Ireland's best-known businesses, including Arnotts, TV3, Topaz and the Shelbourne Hotel.

Depending on what's there, the IBRC special liquidators will decide what to sell and what to tip into Nama.

It is expected that a lot of loans, €900m face value worth, will simply be shuffled into the toxic bank to await another auction process next year. But several businesses, including to pstockbroking house Davy, are likely to buy back their debt and a few of the very tastiest contents will be sold – and hotly fought for.

Some of the wealthiest and most powerful names from here and overseas have run the rule over prime Irish businesses. Whether they're still in the running remains to be seen, but it's a fascinating roll call of big bidders and some clashes on bids are heatedly ongoing.

The Brown Thomas and Selfridges-owning Weston family are highly likely to be among the final bidders for Arnotts' €230m Anglo debt, using the department store and property business's former Ulster Bank loans it has bought as leverage to try to bag up the whole business.

Elegant Irish-born Hilary Weston is married to Galen Weston, the Canadian billionaire who controls the formidable fashion retail empire where daughter Alannah is also closely involved. The family are worth about €6bn.

Likewise, Californian megafund Kennedy Wilson snapped up one half of debt attached to the historic Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen's Green off-market, and is likely to have put in a last-stage bid for the remainder of the debt in this auction.

Billionaire businessman Denis O'Brien is expected to have been a final bidder in a close battle with Neil O'Leary's Ion Equity to buy petrol station chain Topaz's €185m controlling loans, one of the top attractions of this sell-off.

Earlier in proceedings, Mark "Goldfinger" McGoldrick, a former €50m-a-year-earning Goldman Sachs high flyer, was leading a consortium slugging it out with O'Brien and Ion on Topaz through his Mount Kellett hedge fund, along with Goldman.

Some €60m of loans linked to family trusts of pharma tycoon Seamus Mulligan are in this book, connected with a luxury hotel in Prague.

Colourful multimillionaire turnaround veteran Jon Moulton's Better Capital has also had a good look at this book, including Topaz and has a dedicated office here to explore other distressed buys, led by David Cullen.

Beloved turf bible the Racing Post's debt has been bid on by both former Liverpool FC chairman and well-known racing world figure Martin Broughton's investment company and debt owners FL Partners.

David "Bondo" Bonderman's TPG and Wall Street buyout fund Kohlberg Kravis Roberts are thought to be out of the running at this point, having looked at one of the Anglo loan book lots, which contained Hickeys pharmacy business and Fields jewellers.

Billionaire Irish passport holder John Grayken's Lone Star was said to be actively bidding at earlier stages.

Ireland's oldest stockbroking house is expected to pick up its own €140m debt, it's believed, and Doughty Hanson is thought to be bidding on the TV3 debt, possibly with competition from UTV, whose planned 2014 channel launch in the Republic could make TV3 a fit for its plans.

Sunday Independent

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