AN "unsolicited approach" was made to global asset management giant Pimco to buy the Nama loan book long before Cerberus finally went ahead with the deal.
The Irish News has learnt that at least one informal meeting took place at Stormont in late 2013 - thought to have involved Ian Coulter, Frank Cushnahan and a senior politician - with a view to Pimco acquiring Nama’s northern portfolio in its entirety.
But Pimco, which manages funds worth almost €2 trillion, pulled out of the deal.
Yesterday a spokesman for Pimco told the Irish News: "Prior to Cerberus’s successful purchase of the Project Eagle portfolio in April 2014, we were approached on an unsolicited basis by third parties with a proposal relating to the potential purchase of the portfolio by Pimco from Nama.
"Pimco assessed the opportunity and followed its usual due diligence processes, but as a result we decided not to proceed with, or agree to any arrangement with, those third parties.
"Pimco advised Nama accordingly and informed it of our decision not to proceed in the tender process for the portfolio being conducted by Nama."
Pimco had previously acquired a number of assets in the Republic, including 25 properties developed by Liam Carroll in a joint venture with Brehon Capital Partners, which it acquired from Lloyds Bank.
First Minister Peter Robinson had always been supportive of a private equity bid for the Nama portfolio of more than 850 properties, relating to loans with an original face value of €4.5bn.
At a DUP conference in September 2013 he said: “The creation of Nama and its implications for Northern Ireland have been far reaching.”
“Holding on to assets to realise their value in their long term does little to boost our economy right now,” he added.
“If these assets could be liberated then there is no doubt that they could play a major role in creating jobs in the construction sector and getting our economy moving.”
Mr Robinson described the sale to Cerberus last year for less than €1.5bn as "good for the Northern Ireland economy".