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Private equity guru criticises lack of restructuring

HELL hath no fury like a private equity guy scorned, as hundreds of delegates at Dublin's Corporate Restructuring Summit discovered yesterday morning.

Better Capital boss Jon Moulton is a prominent figure in UK private equity circles, having run the rule over 130 potential acquisitions across the Irish Sea in the last year alone.

"We're apparently a deal leader in Ireland since we've done one deal here," he told the best and brightest of Ireland's restructuring world, with more than a hint of sarcasm.

That deal, to take over debt-laden IT firm Calyx, was among just two investments that Mr Moulton's team have looked at seriously over the last year.

"We come to Ireland very regularly, we talk to all the banks, they're very polite, they're very friendly and they wish us well," Mr Moulton said.

"We can't get engagement; there is no desire to actually clear the decks."

The problem, Mr Moulton reckons, is that banks just aren't willing to put failing companies out of their misery and/or remove "corrupt incompetent managers" from their businesses.


"You and most of Europe have an unhealthily low level of corporate failure," Mr Moulton said bluntly. "That's not a heartless statement. You really have to think about what's good for the whole, not the individual ...

"People shouldn't be working in businesses which haven't got a future, it's a waste of their future and the future of the economy."

In another forum, people might have pointed out that Mr Moulton's comments had a shade of self-interest, since more insolvencies equals more deals for his company to pursue. In a restructuring forum, Ireland's best and brightest pointed out that the level of insolvencies has already risen sharply.

In other words, Ireland's restructuring gurus haven't been sitting on their laurels while the country imploded.

Ireland had the third lowest level of insolvencies in Europe pre-crisis, Mr Moulton retorted, a rate lagged only by fellow bailed-out countries Greece and Portugal -- "That's not a coincidence".

Mr Moulton's contribution also included a few choice words about the "very very slow" pace of Irish bank restructuring and a spirited defence of his right to make money from deals.

Private equity types and others making hay while Ireland burns didn't have it all their own way though, as NAMA boss Brendan McDonagh intervened with some sobering words.

"There is no point approaching me and my colleagues with an offer below what we paid (for a loan)," he warned them. "It is a waste of your time and our time."

Irish Independent