Nama

Nama: 'No evidence' sale of northern portfolio fundamentally flawed

Nama has rejected suggestions it should have stopped the £1.2 billion Project Eagle sale

NAMA has hit back at suggestions it should have stopped the £1.2 billion sale of its Northern Ireland property portfolio due to concerns over 'fixers' fees'.

The Republic's 'bad bank' last night published a letter it has sent to Stormont finance committee chairman Daithí McKay, which criticises an interim report by MLAs into the controversial Project Eagle deal.

The finance committee said it regretted Nama's decision not to suspend the sales process once US investment fund Pimco, which had been in the running to buy the portfolio, told the agency in March 2014 that its proposed fee arrangement with international law firm Brown Rudnick included a payment to Tughans law firm in Belfast and former Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan.

The property loans were eventually sold to US firm Cerberus.

In the letter, Nama chairman Frank Daly said the portfolio had "very few valuable assets" and had "attracted little market interest", and stopping the sale could have deterred future investors in Nama assets.

"The issue of abandoning the sales process did not arise as long as Nama believed its commercial objective could be achieved."

He added that if the portfolio "had not achieved Nama's required reserve price, Nama would not have proceeded with the sale".

Mr Daly said there was "no such evidence" that the sales process was fundamentally flawed.

"Indeed the opposite was the case: our international advisers confirmed to the board that the process remained robust with the presence of at least two credible bidders (whose presence ensured competitive price tension through to the conclusion) and capable of recovering the reserve price for the assets set by the board."

He also hit back at suggestions Nama had been "unhelpful" and said it had provided detailed responses to the assembly members' questions.

Mr Daly said Nama "shares the committee's concerns about alleged events which may have occurred on the margins of the purchase end of the Project Eagle sale".

But he said no allegations of wrongdoing had been levelled at Nama and it is not under any criminal investigation.

Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald said yesterday the Republic’s finance minister Michael Noonan should come before the Dáil to answer questions about the assembly’s Nama inquiry.

The finance committee has questioned why Mr Noonan kept his Stormont counterparts in the dark over proposed payments to Mr Cushnahan.

The former banker was said to be in line to receive £5m if Pimco had succeeded in buying the property portfolio.

He was appointed as a Nama adviser in 2012 but resigned in November 2013, before the sale to Cerberus.

A spokesman for Mr Noonan has said Nama adhered to its mandate to achieve the best return for the Irish taxpayer.

But Ms McDonald called on the finance minister to come before the Dáil when it sits again on March 22.

“Minister Noonan must answer questions in relation to this matter of serious public concern and to be held accountable for his actions or inactions as the case may be," she said.

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