Belfast Telegraph

Ireland's 'bad bank' to clear 30 billion euro debt three years early

The so-called bad bank set up in Ireland to clear toxic property loans from five banks is to wipe out its 30 billion euro (£26 billion) debt three years ahead of schedule.

Finance Minister P aschal Donohoe said it was a remarkable achievement and a landmark day in the turnaround in the Irish economy since the international bail out in 2010.

The creation of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) was announced in 2009 with tens of billions of cash set aside to buy property linked loan books from the five main Irish lenders at a massive discount.

Many iconic sites and buildings such as Battersea power station in London were linked to its work.

"This is a remarkable achievement and a landmark day in Ireland's recovery from the financial crisis, which every day we leave further behind," Mr Donohoe said.

He added: "Nama's performance has always, to some degree, been linked to Ireland's recovery."

Nama is forecasting that it will have three billion euro (£2.6 billion) when it is fully wound down.

Mr Donohoe said the numbers were " a testament to the strength of our economy and the journey we have made".

Nama chairman Frank Daly said the redemption of debt was something some people thought could not be done when it was set up.

"This reflects the enormous progress that Nama has made since its first loan acquisition over seven years ago," he said.

"Since inception, the Nama board, mindful of the wider impact on the financial standing of Ireland, has unwaveringly focused on eliminating this senior debt. Nevertheless, this achievement does not mean that Nama's work is completed."

Nama still has a portfolio of about four billion euro (£3.5 billion) on its books, including assets in the Dublin Docklands and smaller loans.

The agency has not been without its critics.

One of its biggest sales, known as Project Eagle, was a 1.1 billion euro (£970 million) deal with US investment fund Cerberus for almost 1,000 properties in Northern Ireland.

The UK's National Crime Agency and US authorities launched investigations into allegations of corruption and financial irregularities behind the deal.

A disputed report by Ireland's Public Accounts Committee criticised then-finance minister Michael Noonan for meeting senior Cerberus representatives the day before the Project Eagle bid closing date and described the deal as " seriously deficient".

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