Business Irish

Friday 6 December 2019

The Punt: Ghana pay-off for investor Michael Hasenstab?

Michael Hasenstab
Michael Hasenstab

Michael Hasenstab's hunt for yield takes the California-based investor to some interesting places.

Having become famous for his successful "contrarian" bet on Irish government bonds, made in the worst days of the debt crisis, the Franklin Templeton asset manager, has since moved on to invest in Ukraine and now Ghana.

Ukraine is now Europe's most volatile state, though Michael Hasenstab has insisted its long term economic fundamentals make sense.

In contrast, Ghana may well be Africa's least volatile state.

Still, investing in Africa is never for the faint hearted. The Ghanian currency, the cedi, fell sharply this week, and is down by a third since the start of the year.

Franklin Templeton is reckoned to hold about a tenth of all of Ghana's publicly-issued debt, a total investment running into hundreds of millions of euro.

Unlike Ukraine, the problems in Ghana stem from relatively prosaic issues such as a stalling economy, and budget and current account deficits. So nothing Michael Hasenstab didn't encounter here first. Watch this space.

Wilbur Ross's new Irish link

It seems Wilbur Ross has found a new Irish banker to back - the former Royal Bank of Scotland executive John Hourican.

Bank of Cyprus, where Hourican was installed as chief executive last year, confirmed yesterday that it has raised €1bn of equity through a private placing.

In what looks like a case of history repeating itself the money has been raised from a consortium led by US moneybags Wilbur Ross, who famously called the bottom on Bank of Ireland with a similar trade three years ago.

Having cashed out of Bank of Ireland, Ross has plenty of cash on hand and having sat on the board at Bank of Ireland he's certainly familiar with the ways of Irish bankers.

Dublin born John Hourican took over at Bank of Cyprus after the country's biggest bank became the first lender in the euro zone to "burn" savers - a condition of a €10bn bailout for Cyprus after European authorities balked at carrying the entire financial can for 
the island nation's debt crisis.

Hourican bowed out of RBS after some traders in his division of the bank were implicated in the Libor fixing scandal, though there has never been any suggestion the Irishman was involved or even aware of abuses in the inter bank lending market.

Gunne gets Chartered keys

Andrew Gunne has jumped ship from Conor Killeen's Dublin-based Key Capital to join property group Chartered Land as chief executive.

Mr Gunne was managing director at Key Capital and headed up its real estate division.

Mr Gunne is taking over the CEO role at Chartered from developer Joe O'Reilly, who is also chairman.

It will be an interesting kettle of fish at Chartered Land, whose property investment interests include stakes in two significant shopping centres - the Ilac in Dublin city centre, and the Pavilions in Swords, north county Dublin.

Chartered Land has been working with NAMA for the past four years on an agreed deleveraging plan and sold some properties in Dublin as well as its UK investment portfolio.

Castlethorn Construction, a related Chartered Land entity that was established by Mr O'Reilly, is also working with NAMA to build homes in Dublin. It recently started the second phase of a residential scheme in the south of the city. Castlethorn was also behind the massive Dundrum town centre.

Irish Independent

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