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Nama silent on 'snubbing' of bidder for Northern Ireland loan book

By Ronald Quinlan

Published 03/10/2016

Email: Brendan McDonagh
Email: Brendan McDonagh

Nama has refused to answer a claim that it failed to engage sufficiently with Fortress - an under-bidder for its Northern Ireland loan book once valued at £4.5bn - in an effort to secure more than the knockdown £1.2bn it ultimately achieved by selling to Cerberus.

On Friday, September 16, Nama sought to downplay Fortress's interest in acquiring the Project Eagle portfolio by releasing an email sent on April 2, 2014, by the company's managing director Mike George to Nama CEO Brendan McDonagh following the submission of its initial bid.

In that email, George said: "I'm sure you know that I'd love to do this transaction." Adding: "If you don't hit your reserve (price), we'd like to continue discussions with you either for the whole thing or some subset of it… I think with a little more time I can get my Fortress people more comfortable."

In a statement accompanying its release of the email, a Nama spokesman said George's email to McDonagh made it "clear that" Fortress was unwilling to pay Nama's minimum price, which was exceeded by Cerberus, and that it was only willing to buy the Project Eagle (northern Ireland) portfolio if Nama failed to get its minimum price.

A source with knowledge of the matter rejected Nama's interpretation, saying Mr George wanted to remain involved in the bidding but had received no further contact from McDonagh or anyone in Nama following Fortress's submission of its bid. "If it was a truly competitive bidding process, you would at least have expected Nama to go back to Fortress to say: 'You need to increase your offer to stay involved here.' That didn't happen," the source claimed.

Nama declined to respond.

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