Galway senator calls on Noonan to explain NAMA prices

Senator Lorraine Higgins has called on the Minister for Finance to come into the Seanad to debate transparency of prices being achieved for proprety sold by NAMA.

Senator Higgins was reacting to news of the “scandalous profit made on a site sold by NAMA, at 1-6 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin’s Docklands which was sold initially by the agency for €7.5m in June 2014 and then resold for €17.75m in August this year”.

Senator Higgins said: “This calls into question NAMA’s strategy of rapidly selling off its property assets as the Irish market for commercial property recovers, and where we see grossly under-valued property being sold off at a significant loss to ultimately the Irish taxpayer. And I think it is fair to say a 136 per cent increase in property price is not reflective of the bounce in the property market here and it needs further explanation,” she said.

“With NAMA chief executive Brendan McDonagh saying it would sell €250m worth of assets every three months and seeing this kind of profit available to private investors at Irish taxpayers’ expense concerns me very much”

“We already know of practices which occur in the US, which were exposed in recent months of US court cases, being taken by pension funds who allege that prices were held down when private-equity firms like Blackstone and Carlyle, amongst others, formed companies with representatives of each private equity trying to buy companies or assets. The firms were accused of agreeing not to compete for each other’s exclusive deals and allocating transactions among themselves in order to keep the purchase prices down,” Senator Higgins continued.

“I understand that NAMA and IBRC, have sold billions of euro of Irish assets to Blackstone and other private equity firms. In light of what has been revealed in recent days, I have huge concerns that the best price has not been achieved for the Irish taxpayer when NAMA is selling assets. Leopards do not change their spots and to expect that Blackstone and other private equity firms conducted themselves and differently buying assets here than that of the US would be foolhardy to say the least.”

“We need to be clear that there is no practice in place whereby competitors are being eliminated from the auction process in order to acquire assets at lower prices. It is time to pull the veil of secrecy off this industry. Public interest and the Irish taxpayer require much greater transparency.” Senator Higgins concluded.

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