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Quinn sale decision stalled until new government elected

QUINN Insurance's administrators have admitted that they cannot proceed with the stricken insurer's sale until after a new government is elected.

The news comes a month after the administrators promised they would make an announcement on the company's future in "two to four weeks".

In an email sent to staff late this week, joint-administrator Michael McAteer said that the timetable had been derailed because of "the political environment the country is currently experiencing".

The delay is a blow to the insurer's 1,600 staff who've been fearing for their jobs since Quinn Insurance Limited (QIL) went into administration nearly a year ago.

Mr McAteer stressed that when the administrators guided that a decision would be made in "two to four weeks", they made the prediction before the general election was called.

"We have completed our work but there are a number of other matters that need to be finalised by other parties before a decision on the sale can be announced," he said.

"Unfortunately, it would appear that we will not get answers to these matters until after the election."

A spokesman for the administrators would not be drawn on what the outstanding issues were, saying the disclosure of any additional information could "impede" the sales process.

It is understood that the delay stems from issues surrounding a bid made by Anglo Irish Bank and US insurer Liberty Mutual, which is one of the two bids under consideration.

Anglo's state ownership means the embattled bank's bid must be approved by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and the Finance Minister.

The bank submitted detailed proposals to the NTMA in the first week of February and was expecting to get the go-ahead to proceed in less than 10 days.

It is understood that the NTMA and the minister have still not given the bank approval and that the matter will now be left to the new government to decide. A spokesman for the Finance Minister declined to comment.

News of the delay comes days after the Cavan Chamber of Commerce and a local business lobby group called for the sale to be suspended so a third proposal from the family of QIL founder Sean Quinn could be considered.

"I want to stress that the sale has not been suspended and that this delay is due to the political climate that the country is currently experiencing and not due to lack of interest from the bidders," Mr McAteer said in his note.

Anglo is understood to remain confident that it will get sign off for its bid, since it believes taking over QIL represents the bank's best chance of recouping a €2.8bn debt owed by the Quinn family.

Zurich, the other remaining bidder, is also believed to be interested in buying the Cavan insurer despite the latest delay.

Mr McAteer acknowledged that the hold-up was "disappointing" and said he would make a further announcement to staff "immediately" once the outstanding issues were resolved.

Irish Independent