Nama faces calls to stop its biggest asset sale
Nama is facing calls to stop the sale of a multi-billion euro property portfolio and allow individuals to buy their mortgages themselves.
Pat Davitt called on Nama to cancel its Project Arrow sale, arguing that the portfolio, along with other Nama assets, should be "made available for purchase to Irish house buyers and investors".
Mr Davitt heads the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV) which counts most auctioneers in the country among its members.
Project Arrow is Nama's biggest portfolio, composed of 1,532 loans from 367 separate borrowers secured against 2,402 properties.
About half of those are residential properties. The overwhelming majority of those properties are in Ireland.
The loans have a par value of around €7.2bn, but are expected to sell for significantly less than that.
Up to now, these portfolios have been bought by large investment funds, usually from overseas, however Mr Davitt believes Nama should end that practice.
"The cost of selling it in Ireland may be higher, but it would be outweighed by a larger sales price which could be as much as 10 to 20pc more per property. This would be a two-fold gain, one for the Irish taxpayer and the other to alleviate the housing shortage.
"If these properties were to be utilised for social housing it would go a long way towards alleviating that problem. The extra cost would be only a fraction of the actual cost to build such units - as Nama seem to be proposing to do - and crucially it would provide the most immediate fix. It is it going to take Nama time to build 1,500 new homes," Mr Davitt added.
"At the very least Irish people deserve to see the economics of selling the Project Arrow residential properties in Ireland teased out openly," he said.
A Nama spokesman said: "The sale process for Project Arrow is progressing well and is being undertaken in keeping with Nama's mandate of securing the best return for the Irish taxpayer.
"The agency separately is involved in extensive activity to support the funding of the development of 4,500 housing units by end 2016 and the provision of 2,000 social housing units by end 2015," the spokesman added.
This is not the first call for the Project Arrow sale process to be suspended. Independent TD Mick Wallace has demanded it be stopped to prevent the loans being sold to what he described as a "US vulture fund".
He has claimed Nama does not have the expertise to manage the sale.
The Project Arrow sale process is at the final stage, but one bidder - a consortium between Goldman Sachs and the investment firm CarVal - has withdrawn from the process.
Another bidder, Apollo Global Management, was reported to have pulled out of the bidding, but that has not been confirmed.
The other bidder is US firm Cerberus, which bought Nama's controversial Project Eagle portfolio in the North.
IPAV’s call for Nama to cancel the sale of its Project Arrow portfolio is not surprising.
IPAV represents most of Ireland’s auctioneers and valuers. If Nama was to take the institute’s advice, then IPAV members would get a lot of business from selling houses and commercial lots individually. To that extent, IPAV’s proposal is self- serving, and it makes its demand easy to dismiss.
But to do that would mean ignoring the inherent sense the proposal makes.
The State bad bank is mandated to secure the best price for its assets on the open market. In practice, that means selling portfolios of hundreds of loans to deep-pocketed investment funds in chunks at a time for hundreds of millions of euro. That is well and good, but it can be a bitter pill to swallow. Most of those loans were sold at deep discounts.
Imagine you had a mortgage of €300,000. At a 70pc discount, you could have bought your mortgage for €90,000 from Nama. Except Nama wouldn’t allow you to do so, and you are now stuck with a €300,000 debt. It doesn’t help that some companies have been able to buy their debts out of other agencies, such as IBRC. Again, the “average person” has not been able to do so.
Nama has its mandate and it is legally required to stick to it, but its mandate should have been revisited.
Selling the mortgages and loans individually, or giving people the chance to buy their mortgages could have helped ease negative equity.
It would have meant Nama perhaps got less for its assets sales, but it is something that should have been looked at.