Business Irish

Friday 20 April 2018

IBRC liquidators weigh up final bids for iconic Irish businesses

Galen Weston
Galen Weston

Sarah McCabe and Roisin Burke

OFFICIALS from the company that is liquidating IBRC will begin considering final bids this morning for loans linked to some of Ireland's best-known businesses.

Loans linked to national treasures such as Arnotts and Davy Stockbrokers are all up for sale as IBRC's special liquidator tries to recoup some of the money spent in bailing out the former Anglo Irish Bank.

The liquidators, Keiran Wallace and Eamon Richardson of KPMG, will now weigh up bids for control over those and other companies.

Their decision should determine whether or not Galen Weston, the owner of Brown Thomas and Selfridges Group, takes majority control over troubled department store Arnotts.

DECISION

Selfridges has already backed the purchase of Arnotts' €140m Ulster Bank loans by Fitzwilliam Finance Partners, the investment company led by solicitor Noel Smyth.

The management of Davy Stockbrokers is also expected to try and buy back its own loans, while an investment group and businessman Denis O'Brien (who is also a major shareholder in this newspaper) are expected to have put in a final bid for the loans behind petrol station chain Topaz.

Other loans that are up for sale include borrowings linked to television network TV3, Fields Jewellers and the Hickey's chain of pharmacies.

A final decision is not due until December 16 and may even take longer.

The loans behind these assets will be passed to NAMA if they are not sold. Sources said yesterday that more loans are likely to go into NAMA than the Government had originally expected, as many of the more obscure loans have failed to attract enough bidders.

All the loans are part of what IBRC calls Project Evergreen. Three other portfolios, Projects Rock, Sand and Stone, will also be sold soon. Together, the four portfolios cover a combined €22bn worth of debt.

Sources said that Evergreen would be easiest to sell as it included several corporate loans that companies were eager to buy back, to regain control of their affairs.

However, others have suggested that the valuations set on the loans are too high, arguing that there should be a "bulk discount" offered for buying one of the books.

While these sales will be the main focus for the liquidators, reports by Bloomberg said they suffered a separate setback yesterday when they were forced to abandon the sale of Anglo's junior NAMA bonds. Anglo was given the bonds in part payment for loans it sold in 2010 to NAMA.

The liquidators have now scrapped the sale of these €843m junior bonds as bids failed to meet a reserve price.

Instead, the bonds will now go to NAMA. The Government ordered NAMA in February to take over any IBRC assets, including junior NAMA bonds, not sold at a reserve price.

It also emerged yesterday that US private equity firm Apollo has bought a portfolio of Irish home loans from Lloyds Bank for €307m, less than half their nominal value.

Lloyds, which is one-third owned by the UK government, said the non-performing loans had a nominal value of £610m (€367m) but were sold at a 58pc discount.

Lloyds said the portfolio made a loss of £33m (€39m) last year and the sale was part of the run-down in its non-core assets.

Irish Independent

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