Saturday 18 November 2017

Lenihan under fire over Anglo loss

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan tonight stood accused of presiding over the most expensive bank bailout in the world as nationalised Anglo Irish Bank reported €8.2bn losses.

The massive blackhole for the first half of the year was twice as bad as experts predicted, prompting calls for the Government to pull the plug on the €23bn survival plan.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said the final bill for saving Anglo would be known within weeks.

But Michael Noonan, Fine Gael finance spokesman, said €6bn of taxpayers' money could be saved if an orderly wind-down was started now.

"Minister Lenihan must now give a definitive figure for the cost of saving Anglo Irish. Taxpayers have a right to know," he said.

Mr Noonan added: "It's not too late for Minister Lenihan to change course and adopt Fine Gael's policy.

"Billions of euros have already been wasted on the bank, but Fine Gael believes up to €6bn of taxpayers' money could still be saved if Minister Lenihan began an orderly wind-down of Anglo Irish."

Mr Lenihan said: "I can understand the anger and frustration which citizens have when they witness the scale of the losses in this institution but it must be understood that management and the Board are working very hard as are the Government and EU authorities to bring certainty and finality to this problem."

Joan Burton, Labour Party finance spokeswoman, said the Minister has been proven wrong on every major decision taken on the banking crisis.

"The taxpayers were reassured at the time that this would be the cheapest bank bailout in the world. Instead it has turned out to be probably the most expensive," she said.

"The ongoing Anglo saga is corrosive to national morale and deeply damaging to our standing abroad.

"The Government should accept that the game is up on Anglo and commit itself to the orderly wind-down of the bank at the earliest possible date."

Anglo chairman Alan Dukes said the preferred plan inside the bank was to split it with 80pc wound up and a new viable bank created from the remaining good quality loan assets.

The state-run bank, which has been funded by €23bn of taxpayers' money, said it expects further losses as more troubled assets are shifted off the bank's books.

A breakdown of the six monthly returns showed it transferred €10bn of assets to the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), set up to try to clean up loan books of Irish lenders.

The bank said it suffered loan impairment charges of €4.8bn and a loss of €3.5bn over the transfer.

Anglo already holds the unenviable record for posting the largest losses in Irish corporate history last year, one of the biggest losses in world banking and now one of the worst half-year performances of any Irish company.

Anglo said it had an operating profit of €151m before the costs of impairments and losses on disposals to NAMA hit home.

The bank's last results, issued in March for the 15 months to the end of 2009, showed losses of €12.7bn - the highest in Irish corporate history.

International finance commentators at ratings agency Standard & Poor's last week warned that Anglo could ultimately cost the state €35bn.

Arthur Morgan, Sinn Fein finance spokesman, said the Greens should demand the plug is pulled on Anglo.

"Fianna Fail have nationalised the losses of their banking and developer cronies and the revelation that Anglo incurred an €8.2bn loss for the first half of this year is the nail in the coffin for the Government's banking strategy," Mr Morgan said.

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