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First Minister Peter Robinson described the sale of the loans to Cerberus last year as “excellent news”. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
First Minister Peter Robinson described the sale of the loans to Cerberus last year as “excellent news”
Former Nama debtors in Northern Ireland are being treated “less than sympathetically” by the US-based investment firm that bought their loans, British MPs have been told.
In a major report on the North’s banking, the House of Commons’ Northern Irish Affairs Committee complains about the lack of commercial lending by banks in the North, repeated IT failures and a drive to close rural branches.
Northern Ireland property loans held by Nama and worth £3.5 billion to £4 billion (€4.9 billion to €5.6 billion), were sold to Cerberus Capital Management last April “for around £1.3 billion”, a sale described at the time by First Minister Peter Robinson as “excellent news”.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan welcomed the report and said it was a good result for the taxpayer.
Liquidator Kieran Wallace of KPMG will announce a significant surplus has resulted from the liquidation, after funds are repaid to secured creditors.
Cerberus told MPs it “would be acting in the best interests” of Northern Ireland and, like Nama, would not seek quick fixes by embarking on a “fire sale” that would drive down property prices.
“However, since our meeting with Cerberus,” the MPs said, “we have heard disquieting stories from some businesses in NI that they are being treated by Cerberus in a less than sympathetic manner.”
Property prices remain “a cause for concern”, the MPs said, adding that the warning from accountancy firm PwC that it could take another decade for prices to return to pre-crash levels made “for sobering reading”.
The main banks operating in North – AIB-owned First Trust Bank, Bank of Ireland, Danske Bank and Ulster Bank – do provide regional data, and Santander should be “strongly” told that it needs to do the same.
All of the banks should draw up a clear standard to identify new lending, or else face one imposed upon them by the Treasury, which should come into force next month.
Even though MPs acknowledged that technology is changing banking habits, they complained that Northern banks “have shown relatively little concern for their customers by their plans to close branches in small towns”.
Highly critical of the banks’ IT systems, MPs said it is clear that most are not fit for purpose and should be rapidly upgraded now that the banks are back into profit.
The inquiry into the collapse in Ulster Bank should be published without any further delay by the bank or the Financial Conduct Authority, the committee said.
Source- Irish Times