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Secret report on Nama loans 'very valuable'

By Brian Hutton

Published 14/10/2016

Brian Rowntree arriving at Leinster House in Dublin
Brian Rowntree arriving at Leinster House in Dublin

A confidential report on Nama's Northern Ireland £1.2bn property loan portfolio would have been very valuable to potential bidders, an ex-adviser to the Republic's bad bank has said.

Brian Rowntree said the "highly sensitive" report was shown to himself, fellow adviser and prominent Belfast businessman Frank Cushnahan and other Nama board members in March 2013.

Carried out by Ulster University, it was ordered by the toxic assets agency and a number of banks involved, at a cost of £20,000. It matched confidential details about properties in the so-called Project Eagle portfolio against emerging housing and development trends in Northern Ireland, including future values.

"If I was conducting due diligence on behalf of a buyer and I had that document, I would be smiling," Mr Rowntree told a parliamentary committee in Dublin investigating the sale.

He added he was "still surprised" that Nama decided to sell off all the property loans several months after they were shown the report. Until then, the focus had been on the "betterment of Northern Ireland" by getting value from the properties and "working against a fire sale", he told Dublin's Public Accounts Committee.

The university report was commissioned to help map out a plan. Asked what happened to it, Mr Rowntree replied: "I have no idea."

In October that year, Mr Cushnahan, who has denied any wrongdoing, resigned as a fellow adviser on Nama's Northern Ireland advisory board. Mr Rowntree said he was told the resignation was for "personal reasons" and there was no discussion about him being replaced.

He also claimed he was never told about a US investment firm pulling out of a bid for the portfolio a few months later after discovering alleged success fees or fixer payments of £15-£16m for three parties behind the scenes.

Pimco said the money was to be shared equally by Mr Cushnahan, US law firm Brown Rudnick and a managing partner of Tughans, a Belfast law firm subcontracted to assist in the deal, Irish officials reported.

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