ANALYSIS : Taxpayers are facing a loss of €300m over the secret deal to protect Anglo Irish Bank, writes SIMON CARSWELL
WHAT STARTED as an attempt to protect Anglo Irish Bank and its volatile share price at a time of severe financial instability has ended with taxpayers facing a potential loss of €300 million on a secret deal involving 10 of the bank’s wealthiest customers. Following heavy falls in the bank’s stock over the St Patrick’s Day weekend last year, the Financial Regulator pressed Anglo Irish to change how its biggest investor held his interest in the bank. Businessman Seán Quinn held an indirect stake of 25 per cent which had left the bank exposed to short sellers who were making big money betting on the stock falling in value amid the uncertainty surrounding Anglo’s stability. Quinn agreed to change his interest in the bank but only took a direct shareholding of 15 per cent. This left Anglo with a 10 per cent stake which if sold on the market over a short period would lead to a collapse in the bank’s share price.
This had to be avoided at all costs given how the dramatic declines in the stock in March 2008 had raised wider concerns and led to substantial withdrawals.
Senior Anglo executives assembled a group of 10 long-standing clients of the bank who would buy the 10 per cent stake remaining following the unwinding of Quinn’s indirect position in the bank. The bank agreed to lend the money to the customers and agreed that only 25 per cent of the borrowings would be recourse, meaning that the borrowers would only be held personally liable for a quarter of the loans. The remaining 75 per cent was “non-recourse”, meaning it was secured on the shares. The transaction was completed in June and Quinn announced the following month that he had unwound his indirect interest in the bank through contracts for difference (CFDs), a type of share derivative, and taken a direct shareholding of 15 per cent.
Fast forward six months and following a series of controversies, the Government decided to take the bank into State ownership in mid-January 2009.
This effectively made the bank’s shares worthless.
The following month the bank said it was taking a bad debt charge of about €300 million against the loans to the 10 clients due to “the permanent diminution in the value of the bank’s share price following nationalisation”. Anglo documents – seen by The Irish Times – show that just before the bank’s nationalisation the 10 customers owed amounts ranging from €9.7 million to €56.5 million. These were listed in Anglo’s records for December 2008. The bank described the loans as “personal” in its records and noted that the value of the security backing the loans had declined, referring to the value of the shares supporting some of the loans. The State-owned bank has said it intends to recover as much of the loans as possible. A spokesman for the Department of Finance said that it supported the bank’s “efforts to recover all debts”. Anglo Irish Bank’s records list the identities of the customers and their outstanding loans at December 2008.
The Irish Times can confirm the names of the Anglo 10 today; the individual debts owing at the start of this year are also outlined here.
1 Jerry Conlan (Mount Carmel Health Group) €56.5 million – MR CONLAN, a property developer and large-scale investor in healthcare, is best known for his sale of a large tract of land known as Millennium Business Park, which he co-owned, next to the M7 motorway in Naas, Co Kildare. The 400-acre landholding was sold for €320 million in 2006, making it one of the largest land purchases of the recent Celtic Tiger era.Living in Naas, Co Kildare, Mr Conlan established the Mount Carmel Medical Group, which owns a maternity hospital in Rathfarnham, south Dublin; Aut Even Hospital in Kilkenny and St Joseph’s Hospital in Sligo.Mount Carmel was one of the groups appointed by the health service to build private hospitals on the grounds of public hospitals as part of the Government’s “co-location” strategy.
2 Patrick Kearney (PBN Property) €46.6 million PATRICK KEARNEY, whose investment in the Anglo Irish Bank share deal was a personal transaction, is one of the largest property developers in Northern Ireland through a number of companies. Based in Gibraltar, Mr Kearney is most prominently involved in the Belfast-based business, PBN Property, with a number of partners. The company, which specialises in commercial and residential development, owns Carryduff shopping centre in Belfast, the Clarion Hotel in Carrickfergus and The Shore, a 110-acre development site, also in Carrickfergus. PBN is also developing shopping centres and retail parks in Glasgow, Middlesbrough and Eccles in England. The company was established by Mr Kearney with Neil Adair, a former regional director of Anglo Irish Bank in Belfast, and businessman Brian McConville. Neither Mr Adair nor Mr McConville are involved in Mr Kearney’s investment in Anglo’s shares.
3 Seamus Ross (Menolly Homes) €46.4 million Mr Ross is the principal behind Menolly Homes, which is one of the largest housebuilders in the country and thought to be the biggest in Dublin. The company has built more than 20,000 properties since it was established 30 years ago, including large housing estates in Lucan, Blanchardstown and Kinsealy in Co Dublin. The company had an estimated turnover of €250 million in 2006, a year that marked the height of the decade-long property boom. Mr Ross has diversified into hotel development and the Menolly Group’s properties include Dunboyne Castle in Co Meath and the trendy Dylan hotel, located near Baggot Street in Dublin. Menolly has been involved in a long-running dispute with construction materials’ providers Irish Asphalt and the Lagan Group over the use of pyrite, a substance found in infill building material that can cause walls to crack.
4 Gerry Gannon (Gannon Homes)
GERRY GANNON is well known as a co-owner of the K Club golf resort at Straffan, Co Kildare, with businessman Michael Smurfit. The two men acquired the resort for €115 million in 2005 from the then Jefferson Smurfit Group.
However, Gannon is best known as a builder and property developer through his company Gannon Homes which he founded in 1984 and developed by building small residential projects in north Co Wicklow and on the outskirts of Dublin.
Originally from Co Roscommon, Mr Gannon has been an active developer in north Co Dublin, building schemes in Malahide and Swords.
He acquired the 200-acre Belcamp College site in Dublin in 2004 for €105 million. He was also behind the Robswall development in Malahide and the Capital North project in Dublin 13.
Mr Gannon is a substantial investor in property. In 2006 he acquired 12 Allied Irish Banks branches for about €100 million.
5 Joe O’Reilly (Castlethorn Construction)
JOE O’REILLY’S best-known investment is the Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin, the largest shopping centres in the country.
Originally from Longford, Mr O’Reilly is the principal behind Castlethorn Construction, which is involved in the development of Adamstown in west Dublin.
The company, which is most active on development in the Greater Dublin Area, acquired the
20-acre site on which the Dundrum Town Centre stands in mid-1990s for a sum of about €10.2 million.
Among the company’s most prominent residential developments are Avoca and Carysfort in Blackrock, Dublin, Rathborne at Ashtown near the M50, Belarmine at Stepaside
in south Dublin, and Woodbrook in Castleknock, west Dublin.
The most recent Castlethorn property scheme to come on to the market are houses on the Killeen Castle golf estate in Co Meath.
6 Brian O’Farrell (N1 Property Developments)
AN AUCTIONEER and developer based in north Dublin, Brian O’Farrell is the owner of the Northside shopping centre in Coolock and the founder of the auctioneering firm, O’Farrell Cleere, which is based in Malahide, Co Dublin.
Mr O’Farrell has planned to build a much larger shopping complex on the site of the Northside centre. His company, N1 Property Developments, is looking to demolish the 37-year- old centre in Coolock and build a 800,000sq ft complex in a €1 billion redevelopment.
Last year Mr O’Farrell paid Treasury Holdings, the development company owned by Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett, and AIB Investment Managers €100 million to resolve a dispute over the ownership of the property.
O’Farrell Cleere is selling the home of former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive David Drumm on the exclusive Abington estate in Malahide.
7 Paddy McKillen (Developer, businessman)
BELFAST-BORN entrepreneur Paddy McKillen is best known for his redevelopment of the former hospital on Jervis Street into one of Dublin’s busiest shopping centres. He co-owns the centre with businessman Pádraig Drayne.
He has also been involved in property partnerships with businessmen Ronnie Delany, Liam Cunningham and Paul McGlade and solicitor Ivor Fitzpatrick.
Mr McKillen moved to Dublin after leaving school to work in the family business, DC Exhausts, before moving into other areas of business such as clothing.
He has worked with Johnny Ronan of Treasury Holdings developing the Temple Bar Hotel, the Treasury Building and the Pepper Canister office block in Dublin. He also invested in a number of retail and restaurant ventures including the Wagamama in Dublin. He has invested overseas in businesses in Vietnam and owns a vineyard in France, which he is redeveloping.
8 Gerry Maguire (Parolen)
GERRY MAGUIRE is the property developer behind the Laurence Town Centre in Drogheda, where tenants include retailers Marks & Spencer and Boots, and Carroll village in Dundalk, Co Louth.
Mr Maguire’s main development company, Parolen, had work-in-progress projects valued at €93 million at the end of March 2008, up from €79 million a year earlier, according to public accounts filed by the business.
The company had retained losses of €4.2 million at March 2008.
Another of Mr Maguire’s firms, Parolen Group (Holdings), had investments valued at €7 million at the end of March 2008.
The company is a substantial borrower with Anglo Irish Bank for its various property development and investment projects.
Efforts to contact Mr Maguire for comment on his investment in the Anglo Irish Bank share deal proved to be unsuccessful yesterday.
9 John McCabe (McCabe Builders)
FOUNDED IN 1972 by John and Mary McCabe, the building company that bears their name is one of the largest in Leinster.
McCabe Builders has worked on a number of major developments, including the Heritage Centre in the Phoenix Park, the €12.5 million Ardmore Hotel in Dublin and the Marriott Hotel in Ashbourne, Co Meath.
Mr McCabe more recently become involved in backing a development project in Sarasota, Florida, led by businessman Paddy Kelly, another substantial borrower from Anglo Irish Bank.
John Walsh, a long-time investment partner of Mr Kelly, was also involved in the project.
The main bankers to the Tallaght-based McCabe Builders ware Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and Anglo Irish Bank.
The company made a profit of €2.2 million on a turnover of €110 million in the financial year to the end of August 2007, the most recent year for which accounts are available.
The company had work-in-progress projects valued at €172 million and investments valued at €60 million at August 2007, according to accounts filed by the company.
10 Seán Reilly (Alcove Developments)
MEATH-BASED housebuilder and property developer Seán Reilly has been behind some prominent projects in recent years, including the Cisco Building in East Point Business Park and the Watermarque building in Dublin 4.
His companies, Alcove Developments and McGarrell Reilly Homes, have built houses in Co Meath, Co Louth, and in the greater Dublin area.
He bought a large tract of land near Maynooth, Co Kildare, from members of the Kavanagh family who ran the grain merchants business in the town for more than a century.