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Property investors look for ways out of crisis

Up to 200 investors in the Irish property market with portfolios ranging from €1m to €50m converged on a Dublin hotel last week to share their experiences, voice their fears and look for ways out of the mess the property crash and recession has left them in.

Among those in attendance at the meeting organised by the newly instituted Irish Property Council (IPC) were solicitors, doctors, shopkeepers and even public servants.

While the event itself was themed 'Working Together to Construct a Sustainable Recovery in the Irish Economy', the Sunday Independent understands that a far more immediate concern for many of those who attended on the night were the personal guarantees they had given to their banks during the boom as they built their property portfolios.

Presentations were made to the meeting by former Bank of Ireland chief executive Mike Soden and Davy Stockbrokers chief economist Robbie Kelleher.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, one attendee at the event described a number of investors as "worried sick" at the prospect of having personal guarantees they had given to their banks called upon as they struggled to repay their loans in a collapsed property market.

"Personal guarantees didn't come up for discussion in the formal question-and-answer session after Mike and Robbie's presentations.

"People are very sensitive about it, and there were 200 people in the room on the night. It isn't something you open up about to a room full of strangers. But a lot of people were talking among themselves about it afterwards," the attendee said.

"People gave these guarantees thinking it was the right thing to do. Their bank managers would have described it as a formality and nothing to be worried about. I know of men who brought the forms home to their wives to sign the family home over, and the wives just did it without question. Nobody ever believed it would come to this, and that those guarantees would be called on," the attendee added.

In the course of the meeting itself, Mr Soden delivered a 15-minute presentation in which he outlined his view on the future direction on the construction industry, banking sector and the Irish economy. Mr Kelleher addressed the future prospects for the economy, with a particular reference to the potential impact of Nama.

While several directors of the IPC declined to make any comment on the meeting when contacted by the Sunday Independent, others who attended the event described it as a "positive development" in the face of the difficulties those involved in property development and investment were now presented with.

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