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Lenihan plan to hold back bad-loan cash from banks

FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan is considering a major change to NAMA by holding back some of the cash to be given to the banks in return for their bad loans.

Government sources also indicated last night that Mr Lenihan will give more information on the NAMA purchases than had been expected, when he provides details to the Dail next month.

Mr Lenihan is examining a number of ways to put further safeguards in place to protect the taxpayer, including delaying part of the payments.

The move would go some way to addressing the concerns being expressed, particularly from the Green Party, about the values of the loans being taken on by the State.

Rather than giving the entire lump sum up front to the banks for the loans, part of the payment would be held back and only paid if NAMA's assets were giving a return. This system would somewhat avoid overpaying for the assets, while still recognising the post-property bubble value of the loans.

The Government agreed yesterday to press ahead with the establish of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) -- its 'bad bank' solution for managing toxic development loans.

Following the first cabinet meeting after the summer holidays, Mr Lenihan said all ministers wanted to put safeguards in place to protect the taxpayers.

He said the Cabinet was engaged in discussions about the changes to the legislation. But he confirmed the two-part pricing schedule was being looked at.

"Yes, that is one of the options. There are a number of options. I'd prefer not to go into them," he told the Irish Independent.

The other risk-sharing options under consideration are believed to be applying a levy to the banks when Nama finishes up and the size of the stake in the banks to be taken.

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When the Dail returns on September 16, as well as the total to be paid for the banks' development loans, it is understood that Mr Lenihan may give the amount for each bank separately and the loss this will mean for each institution.

He will also indicate how much of each bank the State will own when it invests extra capital to cover these losses and repair the banks' finances.

The Government still hopes that some of this may come from private capital, reducing the cost to the State and the size of its shareholdings in the banks. But sources say the Government is also considering putting an estimate on the present, depressed value of the loans.

The main complaint from Nama's critics is that the taxpayer should not give the banks more than the loans are currently worth, backed by property at post-crash values.

Critics

Mr Lenihan may take the critics head-on, by giving a figure on the extra amount NAMA will pay and justifying it on the basis that it is a cautious estimate of longer-term property values.

These significant developments came after 46 economists and business lecturers signed an article criticising the NAMA plan to pay an estimated longer-term value for the loans, rather than their present worth, as indicated in the Carroll examinership case.

Mr Lenihan accused his economist critics of a "crude guess" in saying that the real value of the original €90bn in bank loans was now just €30bn.

The letter was organised by Trinity College finance professor Brian Lucey and was signed by Dr Karl Whelan of UCD and Dr Alan Ahearne of NUI Galway, among others.

Brian Lenihan


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