Belfast Telegraph

Darling of the stock market was like a giant Ponzi scheme

BY MARGARET CANNING

It's the most notorious business in Irish history, nationalised and bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of over €30bn (£23.5bn) after a policy of lending prodigiously to developers north and south backfired spectacularly in the crash.

Banks were able to take advantage of a property boom when values mushroomed.

As an example, Irish developer and Fianna Fail donor Sean Dunne spent €379m (£321m) in 2005 for two hotel sites in Ballsbridge, an unprecedented price for a site in Ireland.

Yet before its collapse, Anglo's success – shares were changing hands for €17 (£14) at their peak in 2007 – made it the envy of other institutions.

Things were no different in Northern Ireland, according to one observer who did not want to be named.

"Anglo almost became like the hare that everybody wanted to catch. It came in and upset the apple cart. There was reckless lending, lending without proper procedures.

"The hare was upsetting all the other banks and eating into their market share."

That prompted competition between the banks to offer money to developers.

Ordinary punters who weren't developers also bought into it as it offered high rates of interest.

"It was a darling of the stock market but its growth was like a Ponzi scheme. As long as you can keep getting more and more people to put money in, it works, but then falls apart when people stop doing that."

In conclusion, Anglo made matters worse in Northern Ireland.

The observer said: "If it hadn't been here, the boom and bust wouldn't have been as bad as it was.

"It was a 'sod everything, go for the money' mentality."

Belfast Telegraph

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