Nama 'could sell Northern Ireland property loan portfolio'

The National Asset Management Agency (Nama) is based in the Republic of Ireland's Treasury Building in Dublin

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A major financial institution is interested in buying Nama's entire loan portfolio in Northern Ireland, according to the Irish Times newspaper.

Nama is the Republic of Ireland's state controlled 'bad bank'.

It controls property loans originally made by Dublin-based banks, including loans worth about £1bn for NI property.

The report states that Pimco, a US-based investment management firm, has approached Nama with a view to buying the Northern Ireland portfolio.

Analysis

Nama's disposal strategy in Northern Ireland has so far been slow and steady - a housing site here, an office block there.

So a deal to sell its entire loan portfolio would be a dramatic step.

If it happens what would it mean?

It is likely to lead to more activity in the property market as a new owner manages its portfolio.

And a new owner could perhaps behave a bit more robustly.

Nama has always recognised its delicate political position in Northern Ireland, a constraint which would not apply to a big global firm.

No denial

In a statement, Nama said it "constantly reviews its portfolio to assess opportunities for maximising returns from loans or assets within the portfolio.

"In addition, it frequently receives approaches from investors expressing interest in acquiring loans or assets in its portfolio and reviews such approaches on an ongoing basis."

However, the agency did not deny the Irish Times report.

A spokesperson in Pimco's London office said the firm had no comment.

Pimco, which is best known as a bond trader, manages about $2tn (£1.2tn) of assets around the world.

It has previously bought Nama assets in the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said the Stormont executive would continue to work with Nama "to ensure that Northern Ireland's interests are protected in all circumstances".

"The executive would clearly have a significant interest on any decisions which may have an impact on the Northern Ireland economy," he said.

"The assets which are presently held by NAMA could undoubtedly be used to boost the Northern Ireland economy if they were managed in a way which unleashed their potential in the short term rather than waiting for them to realise their value in the longer term."

Disposal strategy

Loan sales are a common way for banks to dispose of distressed property assets.

Lloyds has sold several large portfolios of loans that were originally made by its now defunct subsidiary Bank of Scotland Ireland.

Those deals have seen loans, which originally were made to Northern Ireland developers, sold to US investment funds such as Oaktree Capital.

Bank of Ireland has also sold a smaller number of loans to US firm Kennedy Wilson.

Nama has completed several large loan sales in the Republic of Ireland but so far its disposal strategy in Northern Ireland has mainly consisted of selling individual properties which have typically been repossessed.

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