Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland 'still feeling the effects of recession'

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland businesses and individuals continue to suffer the effects of the recession, with many still turning to debt advisory firms for help.

That's according to Conor Devine of GDP Partnership, who has said Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is set for "another five years" of people struggling with small business debts, and problems such as negativity equity on property.

"There have been two phases to all of this," Mr Devine said.

"First, there was the property and banking crash. That was phase one. But now we are in phase two. The US private equity firms have bought up billions in residential loans, and I see that as a five-year process.

"Cerberus has billions of loans, and owns lots of real estate across the board.

"Now, how is the borrower going to deal with the private equity firms? We have had a debt advisory business for five years. I thought work would be dying down, but it's been very busy in the last four weeks.

"What has happened is the bigger, chunkier debts have been solved, but in the last 12 months it's the more granular - people with buy-to-let properties, or a couple of houses here and there."

Mr Devine's firm now employs a team of seven people.

And Mr Devine said global uncertainty in other markets, along with commodity price and currency fluctuations, were set to have a big impact on Northern Ireland.

"My view is there isn't going to be a lot of (bank) lending in the next five years," he said.

"We have turned to finding capital partners, because we don't have a lot of confidence that banks are ready to step up to the plate.

"Currently, you may have a few more pounds in your wallet or purse with the cheaper oil prices and subsequent fuel prices at the pumps but the global outlook is very troubling and absolutely effects everyone.

"When there is uncertainty in the markets this creates fear, which has the knock-on effect to economies.

"The direct effect of this is that there will be less money about to pay bills, meaning more and more people are going to slip into financial distress. This is unfortunately unavoidable."

Belfast Telegraph