Belfast Telegraph

Nama told it needs to be more 'entrepreneurial'

By Emmet Oliver

Nearly 20 shoe shops across Northern Ireland could risk closure after the owner of Barratts and Priceless Shoes became the latest victim of the squeeze on the high street.

THE Republic's 'bad bank' Nama has been told to become more "entrepreneurial" by investing more time and extra funds in the €30bn (£25.6bn) of property assets it controls.

A report by ex-HSBC banker Michael Geoghegan suggested the agency - which has over £3bn of loans on its books relating to assets in Northern Ireland - take extra steps now to make sure its assets were more valuable in the long term.

The agency was told to get its own chief financial officer, no longer depending on the National Treasury Management Agency, for this role.

Mr Geoghegan said Nama needed to move from the "control" it exerted over assets in its first phase of its operations to a new "entrepreneurial" phase.

Mr Geoghegan also floated the idea that the agency could be disposed of in time, but this would only happen after two-thirds of its assets were already sold off and once it had built up a sufficient skills base.

The way the agency dealt with borrowers should also be looked at afresh, with units within Nama working more closely together, said the report by Mr Geoghegan, which will be released today or tomorrow at the latest.

The former HSBC chief executive also wants the board of Nama to change, with more people on it from different business sectors.

A suggestion that Nama take back control of more than €10bn (£8.5bn) of loans from the local Irish banks is included in the report, but is not expected to be acted on in the short term, if at all.

Last week the agency announced it had taken over another 60 properties and land banks in Northern Ireland, including shops and office buildings formerly owned by Peter Dolan, the Co Tyrone property developer behind the Jermon group.

Nama currently manages 180 debtors directly, and this group has loans worth nominally €62bn (£52.9bn).