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Cowen tells Quinn: 'you're on your own'


Sean Quinn in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, yesterday. Photo: David Conachy

Sean Quinn in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, yesterday. Photo: David Conachy

Sean Quinn in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, yesterday. Photo: David Conachy

BELEAGUERED tycoon Sean Quinn yesterday turned on the Government -- only hours after the Taoiseach had taken a telephone call from him to hear his case.

The Taoiseach spoke with Mr Quinn last Thursday night at the businessman's request. During that call, Mr Quinn reiterated the points he had made in his television interview earlier that evening to the effect that bringing in an administrator to Quinn Insurance was "the biggest mistake in Irish corporate history".

However, Mr Cowen pointed out that the High Court had appointed joint provisional administrators to Quinn Insurance following an application by the Financial Regulator, who, he said, "acts independently in all matters".

Regarding issues concerning the wider Quinn Group, the Taoiseach told Mr Quinn that the chairman and CEO of Enterprise Ireland would meet with representatives of the group.

But yesterday, a clearly frustrated Sean Quinn slated the Government's economic record. Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Independent, the embattled tycoon claimed that his insurance business had made a €30m profit last month alone -- as opposed to the €2bn he said the Irish Government had lost during the same period.

"Unfortunately, the Government might have put us in a situation now where we will have trouble retaining all our staff. It was a ridiculous decision by the administrator. It made no sense. We made €30m of profit in the month of March.

"I would imagine during that same period the Government probably lost €2bn. We made €30m. It's unbelievable and it just doesn't make any sense," he said.

He added: "The Quinn Group are job creators, not destroyers. We pay all our tax in Ireland. We employ a lot of people. We had no redundancies during the recession. We've had no redundancies in the last 37 years that we've been in business. I'm 37 years in business this week. We have never had a redundancy package in our lives."

Mr Quinn, once Ireland's richest man, is fighting to retain control of the insurance arm of his business, which was seized by the Financial Regulator last week amid concerns over how the company managed its affairs.

High-level talks are taking place in advance of a High Court hearing on April 12.

Options on the table include a possible takeover of Quinn Insurance by Anglo Irish Bank, in return for writing off the €2.8bn owed by the Quinn family to the now nationalised bank.

There is mounting political unease over the financial crisis that has brought Ireland's second biggest insurer close to the brink.

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The seizure of Quinn Insurance could make it more difficult for the Quinn family to pay back the €2.8bn owed to Anglo as a result of its disastrous punt on shares.

Mr Quinn admitted last week that his family had lost €3bn in shares on Anglo Irish Bank and owed €2.8bn to the bank as a result.

It has since emerged that Quinn Insurance, one of the most profitable companies in the group, guaranteed loans for other Quinn businesses, thereby effectively reducing its own assets by €448m.

The Financial Regulator has argued that as a result, Quinn Insurance did not have enough cash to meet its liabilities to policyholders and asked the High Court to put the company into administration.

Mr Quinn has insisted that he has no problems repaying the debt to Anglo.

In an interview with RTE News last week, he said: "I know I owe €2.8bn. I have no problem paying it back."

He added that he had recently negotiated a repayment of €400m over three years and claimed that Quinn Insurance made €1m a day profit in March.

Quinn Insurance could now be sold, which would mean that the Quinn family would have difficulty servicing their massive debt to Anglo -- this could also result in job losses.

As a result, Anglo Irish Bank is considering swapping the family's €2.8bn debt for a stake in Quinn Insurance, to secure the debt on behalf of the taxpayer, sources confirmed yesterday.

The deal would be dependent on the Quinn family being relieved of its debt.

The group is also in talks with banks and bond holders with a view to rescinding the guarantees that have been given by Quinn Insurance.

Government ministers have rowed into the crisis following a week of intensive public and private lobbying by Mr Quinn. The agriculture minister, Brendan Smith, who is also Mr Quinn's local TD in Cavan, led a delegation of local politicians to meet senior managers at Quinn Insurance headquarters yesterday.

It is understood that he later briefed the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Batt O'Keeffe.

Meanwhile, local TDs and councillors are to take legal advice on how they can intervene in the crisis to save jobs, without influencing the independent High Court process.

Northern Ireland ministers, including Michelle Gildernew and Arlene Foster, also met with Quinn Insurance management.

Also at the meeting were former Ceann Comhairle and local Fianna Fail TD, Dr Rory O'Hanlon; Fine Gael TD Seymour Crawford; Fianna Fail TD Margaret Conlon and Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghin O Caolain.

After the meeting, Mr Smith said: "We're obviously concerned about jobs. It's in everybody's interest to protect employment.

"I am very conscious of the huge importance of this group to the economy."CONCERNED: Minister Brendan Smith meeting Quinn employees in Cavan. Photo: David Conachy

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