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Taggart: the public face of an embattled sector

A year ago to the week, Michael Taggart, as the frontman of Taggart Holdings, won the coveted "industry" section of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award at a ceremony in Citywest Hotel.

But following months of searching for a fresh investor which never materialised, the group's two main bankers, Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland, called for an administrator. The group's most recent publicly available set of accounts show it had a debt pile in the region of £95.1m (€122.5m) at the end of 2006.

The move has turned the affable Derryman into the public face of an embattled sector where banks face massive loan writedowns over the next few years. While Irish banks largely avoided the "toxic" US subprime-type investments that caused the crisis, investors have become much more concerned about "hidden nasties" lurking in their own loan books.

Goodbody Stockbrokers said last week that it expects, for example, Allied Irish Banks to write off €4.5bn of its loan book over the three years to the end of 2010, Bank of Ireland €4.3bn, Anglo Irish Bank €2.1bn, and Irish Life & Permanent almost €300m -- a total of €11.2bn.

By the time the banks have come through the down part of the cycle in 2011, AIB will have written off 10pc of its Irish property-related loans -- driven by a 17.2pc loss on its residential development book, according to the broker. It predicts Bank of Ireland will have to take a red pen to 16.8pc of loans to housebuilders and Anglo 13.7pc.

Goodbody sees commercial development as the second main point of weakness, followed, at some distance, by residential and commercial investments. The level of loan losses the broker expects is much higher than any of the banks have signalled.

But the extent to which lenders are rolling up interest on loans to developers is also unclear.

It is hoped that a report being prepared for the Government by PricewaterhouseCoopers on Irish banks, due next month, will give a clear assessment of where any problems may lie.