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Noonan makes no promise of Nama profits

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has pointedly declined to say whether he or his department believe Nama will ever deliver a profit for the taxpayer.

Asked by Fine Gael TD Simon Harris in a parliamentary question whether it was his department's view that Nama would ultimately produce a profit for the Exchequer, Mr Noonan said Nama was "currently reviewing its strategy in the light of developments in the Irish economy and in the property market since it published its business plan in July 2010".

Mr Noonan's reluctance to commit himself to making any comment on Nama's potential profitability comes just three weeks after cabinet colleague Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney conceded to the Sunday Independent that Nama will have "done a good job" even if it only manages to recover the €31.8bn it paid to the banks for the €71.2bn they lent to developers during the boom.

Mr Coveney was responding to remarks made by Nama chairman Frank Daly in a speech at the Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge in which he described the "burden" of recovering the €31.8bn the State's so-called 'bad bank' had paid for developers' loans as a "massive and onerous one".

Reflecting the growing concerns within Government in relation to Nama and its operations, Mr Harris called for the agency to complete its current review and to report as quickly as possible so its potential cost to the taxpayer can be assessed.

"Nama was unveiled with much fanfare and confident assertions that it would ultimately generate a profit for the Irish taxpayer. This mantra was repeated over and over again by the Government of the time.

"There is now a 'review' of Nama's strategy. It is imperative that this so-called review takes place and reports as quickly as possible so that the Irish people and hard-pressed taxpayers know the true extent of what Nama holds in store for them in terms of any potential liability," Mr Harris said.

Among the factors Nama said it was considering and believes will be "critical" in determining its profitability -- according to Mr Noonan -- are: "The performance of various economies in which its debtors' assets are located, the timing and sustainability of any recovery in the property market in Ireland, the sustainability of the UK property market, the availability of finance and the extent to which it can maximise the level of income produced by its loans and property assets securing them."

Mr Noonan told Mr Harris he had asked the Nama board to keep him informed of its deliberations.

Sunday Independent