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Political pressure led to £1.2bn US deal for NI portfolio: Nama chiefs

By Brian Hutton

Published 19/10/2016

Political forces in Northern Ireland pushed for a massive property portfolio to be sold to a US vulture fund, Nama chiefs have said
Political forces in Northern Ireland pushed for a massive property portfolio to be sold to a US vulture fund, Nama chiefs have said

Political forces in Northern Ireland pushed for a massive property portfolio to be sold to a US vulture fund, Nama chiefs have said.

The portfolio of 800 Northern Ireland properties and loans, was sold by Nama to US investment fund, Cerberus, for £1.2bn in 2014.

Before a parliamentary committee in Dublin, Nama director Willie Soffe, signalled the agency came under political pressure from Belfast before the deal.

"I think there was a problem with part of the Northern political establishment or family with having somebody from the South there long-term," he said.

He added: "There were cross-border issues, let me put it as diplomatically as that."

Fellow director, Oliver Ellingham, said there was an "emotional factor" and Nama was being told "political forces in Northern Ireland would rather have these assets controlled by an American, than an entity from the South."

They were being cross-examined after Dublin's public spending watchdog found Nama undervalued the portfolio by up to £190m. But in a hard-hitting rebuke, Mr Soffe said the key finding of a probable £190m loss in the sale was, "simply wrong", as it was derived from a mistaken assumption about a discount rate. Nama had applied a "market discount rate" of 10%, rather than its usual 5.5% discount because of the state of the Northern Ireland economy and its outlook at the time, he said.

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