Promissory Note Campaign: A Quiet Downgrading

From the Irish Times:

THE GOVERNMENT has quietly downgraded its campaign to persuade the European Central Bank to change the terms of the €30 billion of promissory notes it issued to bail out Anglo Irish Bank, according to an authoritative Government source.

The efforts by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to seek a reduction from the ECB in the 8.2 per cent interest rates being charged on the notes or extend the term of the loan has not really worked, said the source.

I suspect most of us can think of other euphemisms for “quiet downgrading”.

81 replies on “Promissory Note Campaign: A Quiet Downgrading”

I thought the quotes from another Irish Times article were even more worrying in portraying a lack of fight:

“Speaking ahead of a speech to the Ireland-US Council in Dublin, Mr Noonan said there were other ways to reduce Ireland’s debt burden beyond a restructuring of the promissory notes being used to push out €31 billion of the cost of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society over time.

“We are not particularly pinning our case on the promissory notes,” he told reporters.

“The position is a methodology to reduce the burden of debt in Ireland and there are a number of ways of doing it – the most striking example is the promissory note but there are other means as well.”

What other ways are there to reduce Ireland’s debt burden?

Once a Governor is capable of stroking a pen … there are vaults in the EuroZone other than in the Bundesbank.

Should have a neat little bundle of referenda ready by March …

With the Q3 GDP numbers out today and the rumoured capitulation of the Irish government on this key issue, the probability of a hard sovereign default is now quite substantial. We are unlikely to meet our Troika deficit reduction targets next year given the economic growth outlook in Ireland and Europe.

It will be extremely difficult if not impossible to reduce Irish government debt to a sustainable level without a major restructuring of the promissory notes. I think that is the sort of language the government should be using when it is negotiating with the ECB – ‘we may be forced to default if we do not get a concession on this issue’.

@Karl Whelan

Its quite depressing, if a referendum is to take place on the EU in Ireland there must be bank debt relief/restructuring as part of that referendum.

If there is not, a vigorous campaign should be run by sensible people like yourself who attract broad support in Ireland communicating to the people of the long term impact of the promissory note and Ireland’s debt sustainability.

If this were to get trapped in a Sinn Fein, Ganley, McWilliams, Dunphy or Fintan O’Toole army, there is danger that the illogical yes or no on euro message would prevail.

As you have cogently argued in the past, there is no legal mechanism upon which to eject Ireland from the euro and clearly to move forward it is in EU countries interest that Irish people vote yes on the fiscal changes. Similar to 2008 when a no vote resulted in a protocol protecting Corporation Tax rates, if promissory note alteration is not included in a first referendum, it shall likely be included in a second.

@Karl Whelan

‘I suspect most of us can think of other euphemisms for “quiet downgrading”.’

Not ones that I would care to repeat on this blog. They involve German black cherry yoghurt, identical blonde French twins and blockages in various orifices.

Michael Noonan, a schoolteacher, is facing the highest stakes negotiations of his life – tens of billions of Euro, and the EU political future. Now it is one thing having to accept the calibre of Noonan (as he was elected), but another entirely to accept the calibre of his mediocre crop of advisers. Serious (likely non Irish) economics and finance professionals should be advising him directly. Without top drawer advice, it is no surprise that he lacks courage in any of his convictions.

The people doing this negotiation, did they negotiate their own pay-packages, or? Did that negotiation go as well as this one?

I don’t fully understand why the promissory notes have an interest margin in the first place.

Is it because they are no longer producing revenue streams to pay this? Did the other banks “only” need the principle capital amounts (and not interest) because they are still producing income?

Did we lie to ourselves when we said the bill for Anglo was 29.3bn? Should we have said 47bn from the start?

Rob S
“Did we lie to ourselves when we said the bill for Anglo was 29.3bn? Should we have said 47bn from the start?”
Whos this we paleface?

Noonan and team should join the Occupy Frankfurt protestors in ECB plaza until a deal on the notes gets done.

@ Rob

they had to be discounted per IRISH govt bond yields, otherwise their NPV would be less than par, but the interest is a circular transaction – we pay it to ourselves (ie Anglo), albeit we cant get that money back for 10-15 years. The debate gets confused on this point. But at least by reducing interest payment and lengthening the tenor, we would not have to fund it via the deficit to the same extent/burden.

@ Karl

while the pullback in the government’s line on this, which had been pretty consistent for the last few months, is depressing, they did caveat it by saying they would still take it to the EU Commission, rather than the ECB, right? Any ideas on what other “methods” could be to relieve the burden? EFSF taking equity stake in banks? Dont think ELA writedown is a runner to be frank!

When will the first opinion poll be out on the EU referendum?

The ECB – our old foe – might change its tune if the Germans and French get on their backs about this.

We need to force a vote on this.

As far as I understand it (which is not much) the Irish central bank can issue ELA as it wishes subject to 2/3 dis approval of the governing council of the ECB.

Is it the case that we can restructure the repayment by Anglo to the Irish Central Bank, and the promissory note, subject to two thirds disapproval by the ECB?

If so, we need to get them on the record voting against this – no more veiled threats in the media and through back channels about cutting us off.

Those threats are becoming increasingly incredible in any event – if Greece can re structure its national debt – and French banks can be bailed out by a pan European fund – the position in relation to Ireland is increasingly untenable.

Assuming back channels have failed the ECB must be forced out into the open on this as much as possible. And by that I mean they must be forced if possible to take an actual decision or vote on the issue.

Can anyone comment of this link?

Could Irish banks (which are state owned after all) be told to use their mortgage loans as collateral to borrow from the ECB at 1% and then lend to the Irish government at a profit?

It seems to good to be true.

Is this the new cheaper funding Noonan is talking about?

The doom and gloom is all over a number of the posts above. A bit of optimism and confidence. Change will be good!

Forget the deal on the notes, Italy means game over.

Anybody see Hu Jintao hand in hand with Klaus Regling and Tiny Tim today to announce the EMU was amalgamating with China and would henceforth be known as EuroYuan, Western China Province?

China to bail us out? No!

There is No Money in the EFSF/ESM kitty to pay for the core and outer core defaults coming after 2012 in Q1.

We need to move on. Euro is gone.

This is not a matter for doom and gloom. It was a good decision to join the euro. It’s now a good decision to leave.

It will be a challenging and fun opportunity for this country to take itself up by the bootstraps and reboot itself, but it can be done with success and ingenuity.

Look forward to the challenge, folks. No more whinging and whining and useless begging for handouts that won’t be coming at you.

The disastrous Honahan….don’t get me going 🙂

Have a good weekend 🙂



If it is happening EZ wide, it is due to banks taking long term LTRO from the ECB and buying new issues. It cannot happen here as there is no issuance.

However, the covered banks shoudl be taking the long term money and slowing the deleverage exercise to a snail’s pace.

If we are going the leave the euro and default, we might as well have as big an exposure to the ECB as we can manufacture.

@ Tull

short-end secondary market has gone hyper bid across the periphery over the last few days, and lot of guys switching out of the long end and into the short in expectation of LTRO take up (you can more or less match fund/fund to maturity now with LTRO, but only out to 2015/6.

@ PeterJ

I was pretty optimistic that this latest ECB wheeze might actually give us some breathing space until I picked up the FT this morning and saw the following article titled “Doubts over ECB move to boost bond sales”

It begins:
“Eurozone governments are facing disappointment for their hopes that banks in the region would use new longer-term finance offered the European Central Bank to buy up beleaguered sovereign bonds.
Bankers say big European banks are unlikely to buy more government debt using the three-year loans on offer from the ECB for the first time next week.”

Concerning social injustice and unfairness, I gave up even trying to attempt to trigger some thoughts with politicians.

Excerpt from a letter that I sent to Eamon Gilmore, 20th February 2009:

Did you know that back in 2004, in our country of round about 4mn at
this time, the richest 100 people in Ireland counted for more than
one fifth of Irelands total GDP with a sum of Euro 23bn? Astonishing
isn’t it?

Although we seem to get more used to 12 digit figures by now, I intend
to think it is always helpful to put such figures into proportion.

Back in 2004, from that list of 100, the 10 richest people in Ireland
counted for an average cash net worth of Euro 800mn each.

To achieve such fortune, the average industrial worker would have to
bank his/her entire Euro 27,000 salary (2004 figures)…. every year….

….for 30,000 years!

His answer:

On 20 Feb 2009, at 11:35, eamon gilmore wrote:

Thank you for your email. ~thisis quite remarkable, when one thinks of it, in the way you have put it. I will make use of it!
Best wishes



Yeah that’s depressing reading. This quote in particular:

“Banks that choose to do the trade may find themselves further locked out of funding markets as investors fret over their increased eurozone exposures.”

But I’m hoping that it might still work for Irish bonds. Our banks don’t have much to loose, they are already locked out of the funding markets.


The world has changed a lot since 2004. I bet you many of the top 100 are now bust with negative net worth, although many are still spending as if this was not the case.

@ Edward

I think so far the big core banks have not been involved, but the periphery small and medium size ones have. Its had a big impact on bond yields over the last 72 hours. The problem is that it seems to be domestically focused banks doing the buying, ie Spain on Spain, Italy on Italy etc, and it makes sense for them with yields where they are. It doesn’t however make sense for German banks to buy Bunds or French banks to buy OAT’s, because the yield levels are so low. Thats the conundrum, how to co-opt the big core banks into this endeavour.

@ David O Donnell re “cartoon of the day”

On chart re “Interest Rates on 10-yr Government bonds” its astonishing to see the spreads since Lehman’s, more convincing evidence that euro meltdown is a shadow banking as well as a property bubble induced one.

Noticed the comment below which aligns also with with own views:

“I got this from the FTI report, which basically aligns with my view on things:“It’s important not to mistake the end of the euro as a single currency with the end of the European Union.
Member nations’ commitment to the EU is unshakable; they see it as essential in maintaining peace on the Continent and in representing European interests and values around the world. The euro, on
the other hand, could simply go down as a grand dream that eventually ran into the wall of economic reality.”

I’m not familiar with FTI report given as source, if anyone got a link to it.


The Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) has issued promissory notes of 30 bn odd to the IBRC. This is recorded as an asset in the bank’s balance sheet and the CBI pays exorbitant interest rates to IBRC. But the interest income, if I understand you correctly, is really a case of the left hand washing the right hand because IBRC is 100% state owned. The Central Bank is paying IBRC interest and IBRC is receiving interest.

I have one question. When the promissory notes are redeemed the Central Bank is paying the money. What is the cost to the Central Bank of the funds that it is using to redeem the promissory notes? I am not talking about the interest rates it is paying IBRC, but the interest rate it is paying (presumably to the ECB) to access the funds which it transfers to IBRC.

The people pushing back on the ELA , presumably the Bundesbank, remind me of the Saudi influenced Salafis who are doing so well now in Egypt. The only way to solve the problem at hand is to return to the 7th century. Stick to rigid dogma. Keep the women under control as well.


last week a woman was decapitated in the lands of the house of Saud, better known by some as simple minded desert bandits.

The woman was accused of witchcraft and decapitated.

Sometimes it is hard to believe we made it to this century.

@John Martin

I had a different understanding of the promissory note. ( Which may be completely wrong)

I thought that the Irish government gave the 30B note to Anglo (aka IBRC). Then IBRC used the note as collateral to borrow from the ICB. The ICB created the 30B (with the permission of the ECB) it didn’t borrow it from anyone.

So the cost to the ICB is zero.

The interest is payed by the IBRC to the central bank. So the ICB makes a big profit and much of that profit will eventually get back to the Irish government many years from now.

The real cost to the government stems from having to borrow the 3.1B it pays back each year. So the real cost is the interest on the bonds it sells over the next decades to fund the repayments to the ICB.

Thanks for that, PeterJ.

Your version sounds better than mine because the credit in IBRC’s books is recorded in the capital reserve which is owned by the Irish State (the debit being the promissory note).

If either of our versions is correct (especially yours) it highlights the absolute nonsense that is written about this by various newspaper columnists on the subject (e.g. costing 47 bn).

@ John/Peter

Government issues the PN, not the ICB.

Government pays high interest rate on this to Anglo.

Funds the capital portion of this on the market every year, ie the 3.1bn, replacing the PN bit by bit with cash. So as Peter notes, the true cost to us is ultimately what it costs Ireland fund this debt over the next 20 years or so.

Anglo places the PN as collateral at ICB, in return for ELA. Pays relatively low rate to ICB. ICB (I think) books that entire rate as profit, eventually returning some or all of it to us, though not the principal.

@ John

Re nonsense in papers.

Yes and no. If the state returns to the markets at say ~8%, then yes, it really will cost 47bn. But we assume that doesn’t happen and we eventually fund ourselves a lot cheaper.. If it does, then I suggest we’ll be writing off the ELA first.

@ All


Canary Islands downgraded to A+ (I’m serious)

We were expecting more from S&P, somewhat underwhelmed, but assume it’s a warning shot across the bows so to speak.

S.S. S&P expected to reach Straits of Gibraltar by 9 bells…

That’s sorted. We managed to magic away all that money the Govvie put into Anglo and nationwide.
Now to get rid of the ECB money. Suggestions on the back of an envelope please.

Thanks for this, Eoin.

I don’t think of the interest paid to Anglo as a cost to the State (Anglo or IBRC is part of the State). So, the real financing costs to the State is the interest it pays on the 3.1bn every year.

Would I be correct in saying the “State” has not paid any interest to an external party on this 3.1 bn yet? Also the interest charges only begin to accrue once it borrows for the first installment of 3.1 bn?

Here’s a comment from Fitch which seems to have got lost…
“The decisions follow last week’s European Union summit that many felt left much to be desired. In its release Fitch says it “has concluded that a ‘comprehensive solution’ to the eurozone crisis is technically and politically beyond reach.”

Of course the EFSF/IMF funds count, Eoin. I am not trying to diminish the Anglo disaster.

But I am trying to understand the financing of the promissory notes. This has been made a big issue by Noonan and now it has been dropped.

If my understanding is correct, the financing of these is quite benign. The State as a whole only has to begin borrowing on the first installment and only then the interest begins to accrue?

Whether we should be repaying the capital at all is another question.


if they do the monkeys will probably knock 7 bells out of them.

“ICB (I think) books that entire rate as profit, eventually returning some or all of it to us, though not the principal.”

People seem to forget ‘we’ have already had the principal. The ICB printed it for ‘us’ by pretending the promissory note was a Gilt (because ‘we’ had given a sovereign guarantee ‘we’ would on a set schedule reverse the printing by raising tax revenue and hand it to Anglo to hand to the ICB).


Can you imagine Lucinda or even Noonan post a briefing on this trying to sell the idea to the Germans?

The further removed from the original dilemma – what should happen to unsecured senior bank bonds – you get with each wheeze, the more difficult it gets to make the case that the cost should be shared. There was enormous PR, press and investor (not all obviously) empathy with a really firm line, accompanied by really good presentation, taken by Ireland on the bonds. Many investors were extremely cheesed off at these bonds being paid. That potential was never tapped though and some of those investors have now had enough of Irish shenanigans. There is less empathy for a state wanting to set the precedent of having the money printed to pay finance itself (this is the optics).

@ grumpy

True story – one of those monkeys took a swipe at me when I was a kid. My mother wanted a picture of me with my arm around him. Even as a 10 year old I was Linda suspect that he may not buy into it, and I was proved right. Pre-dates Ebola, thankfully.

Out of my depth here. All I can really surmise is that Noonan is as full of s**t as the last one. Not economics really but….


I think the problem is the Anglophile glossary of financial terms. “Bazooka” just doesn’t resonate in Germany, and investors are bored of the term.

Remember that ad for “the world’s local bank – we speak all languages”. Geithner might try dumping “bazooka” and trying “88” instead.

“The Germans’ discovery of the potency of their heavy flak (anti-aircraft) guns in an anti-tank role was one of their most startling contributions to the armoured warfare of the Second World War.

The ’88’ was a weapon both feared and respected by the Allied forces in the Western Desert; no tank could stand up to it; and the ’88’ came to be regarded as the ultimate German wonder weapon of the desert war, with almost mythical powers. ”

The Germans’ discovery of the potency of their heavy flak (anti-aircraft) guns in an anti-tank role was one of their most startling contributions to the armoured warfare of the Second World War.

The ’88’ was a weapon both feared and respected by the Allied forces in the Western Desert; no tank could stand up to it; and the ’88’ came to be regarded as the ultimate German wonder weapon of the desert war, with almost mythical powers.

More from Live at the Bundesbank

Greater Risks for Taxpayers
German Bundesbank Wary of IMF Help for Europe

Bundesbank head Jens Weidmann has insisted that before Germany sends its €45 billion share to the IMF, it needs assurances that other fund members outside of Europe are also willing to help out. Russia indicated its willingness to play along on Thursday. There are indications, however, that the United States will not help out. According to Bloomberg, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Senate Republicans on Wednesday that the Fed would not devote more money to the IMF. US President Barack Obama has also said that the IMF has sufficient resources.,1518,804228,00.html#ref=nlint


Ask any Antipodean finance whiz and they will tell you the Central Bank offers Linda of last resort facilities….


“Bundesbank head Jens Weidmann has insisted that before Germany sends its €45 billion share to the IMF, it needs assurances that other fund members outside of Europe are also willing to help out”.

I presume China will give the 2 fingers. There is plenty of money in Europe will be the refrain. Weidmann comes across as very much the fundamentalist.


He’s gettin a bit stroppy of late at times – methinks a slight touch of classical teutonic triumphalism … ould romanticism, delusions of grandeur … my money remains on the pragmatists, but seriously how could anyone contemplate putting up with the present lot to 2013 … ?

For all Angela Merkel Fans [as close as Der Spiegel does Hello!

Merkel’s Human Side
Iron Angie Is Only Half the Story
By Dirk Kurbjuweit

Part 1: Iron Angie Is Only Half the Story
Part 2: Merkel Never Loses Her Cool
Part 3: The Profession of Being Chancellor
Part 4: The Loneliness of the Chancellor
Part 5: A Patriot without Pathos
Part 6: Democracy Has Experienced a Dry Patch Under Merkel,1518,800715,00.html#ref=rss

I love this one from Fitch Ratings.

Following last week’s EU summit, it “has concluded that a ’comprehensive solution’ to the eurozone crisis is technically and politically beyond reach”.

Who was saying during the week that we should test the water by going back into the bond market in the new year? I love those boys from the IMF.

@John Foody et al.

Based on the wording of the Draft Agreement, looks like it’s “referendum on” to me. All references to sanctions are gone, replaced with the more nebulous “undertake to support proposals or recommendations put forward by the EU Commission” (if exceeding the 3% deficit ceiling).

Perhaps this is why the Czech and Hungarian ministers were talking about tax harmonization yesterday. As worded, there are no limits or restriction on what the Commission could propose, so what happens if they say “we recommend Corporation Tax be raised to 20%”?

An ex-ante agreement to support and implement anything the Commission might propose is just nuts. I’m stunned that even a draft agreement could get this far with such broad and unbounded language.

@ Desmond Brennan / John Kennedy

Allies on the ECB governing council would be more important than hiring advisers. I assume that Patrick Honohan passed on the news that the ECB wasn’t for turning.

This is part of a long game and there maybe opportunities for progress in future.

Putting the issue at the centre of a referendum campaign in the hope of forcing the ECB to later concede, seems foolish to me.

The last thing the economy now needs is turmoil triggered by a referendum defeat.

@ Michael Hennigan
“Allies on the ECB governing council….”
Hate to say it but these guys are only interested in banking and bankers. Mario is only interested in allowing banks to borrow at 1% to lend to govts at 5% as ratings agencies inflate the yields of those governments.
If you thought Irish public life was corrupt you really ain’t seen nothing til you look at the world of finance

@Bryan G
I hope they rather propose the CCCTB ,which is more important to us,continentals.

A referendum would be the worst thing to happen to the country because:
1: They don’t want us in and
2: If we choose to go they can impose whatever conditions they like and
3: It is cruel to ask us to choose at this late stage when we have been railroaded into everything else.

Here’s draft:

Fitch are not buying it. I agree, bit like watching a house burn down and drafting better fire regulations to prevent such fires in the future!

What about the fire of debt??

So, I’m wondering about this compact:

(Law) an official contract or agreement

adj [kəmˈpækt ˈkɒmpækt]
1. closely packed together; dense

I’m thinking of a new box that’s being built for the euro. Only those countries that can be ‘compacted’ into the box will be in this new euro.

I think we are being shown the door. In this game of snakes and ladders the ‘compact’ sends us out of the euro to a fiscal state outside the EMZ.

We need to do a cold shutdown default on our debt, bring our economy to a point where in the future, having renegotiated our own writedown and carried out reconstruction/devaluation, we may wish to rejoin a new Europe.

What the ‘compact’ is trying to do is save the core. Greece, Ireland, Portugal and perhaps Spain will be forced to leave, a two tier euro is on the cards.

Above is best result that can be achieved. The Rating agencies could/may buy into the above, but the markets and the rating agencies will not buy into the compact if it includes the peripherals.

Either the above, or the scenario of a return to DM and a complete collapse of the euro EMZ house of cards!

In any of the above scenarios, we are out of the euro!

We need asap to follow the lead of the Greeks and pursue a policy of debt writedown.

Honahan/Kenny/Cowen/Cardiff policy has failed miserably.

“Greek finance minister confident on private debt writedown negotiations – The Washington Post ”

We need to do a cold shutdown on our own debt problems to prevent further damage wrought by this disastrous government and previous one, whose policies have been reminiscent of the Ceaucesco Romanian policy of failed debt appeasement .

If we follow the current path, should we not be ejected from the EMU, expect to see our government disappear and an emergency ‘technical’ government in situ in the not too distant future.

@ Michael Hennigan

This is part of a long game and there maybe opportunities for progress in future.

Nope, the ‘short game’ is on now. Falls in GDP, GNP, our economic outlook, mean we cannot meet the Troika demands, our debt cannot be repaid under the terms meted out to us.

Events in Europe are coming shortly to a head. This is no longer a ‘long game’ of wait and see.

@ David O’Donnell

There is a quote on Merkel in the FT today that says:

“Ms Merkel has stayed at Mr Cameron’s Chequers retreat, spending the rustic drama ‘Midsomer  Murders’, a favourite of hers.”

Maybe she can get John Nettles to solve the curious case of the garrotted democracy.

Should read “… spending the evening watching the rustic drama Midsomer Murders…” damned phone… and hangover

Perhaps we should look at SUCCESS of the krona and Sweden’s tough policy on the banks, having dumped its own troubled banks into a bad bank in the 1990’s, firesaled its bad property sector, currently top rate personal income tax, 57%…. We should look to Sweden for best practice, Also Grimsson and currently Greece write down negotiators!…Compared to our own BaNAMAd state 🙁

@ Eureka

I’m pro referendum, because the current ad hoc, impose this, impose that appraoch is unsuitanble and the sooner we put a halt to it, man up and take control over our country the better. I don’t care if it’s what they want,I miss warts n all democracy.

Comments are closed.