Frank Daly on NAMA Providing Finance

NAMA Chairman Frank Daly gave an interesting speech today. NAMAWinelake analyses the speech in detail here.

Daly discusses how NAMA may get sales going in both the commercial and residential property markets. In terms of commercial property, Daly describes how NAMA can provide finance in a simple and clear manner which hopefully will dispell some of the confusion about this issue when it first came up (the point of this post was that it was a very simple issue but that didn’t stop us getting various comments about where would they get the money from, the whole thing being circular and Ponzi schemes and the like …):

To illustrate how stapled financing might work in practice, let us take the case of an investor who wishes to buy a property asset from a NAMA debtor or receiver but who cannot source any funding or sufficient funding from banks even though he is willing to contribute 30% equity. Assuming a purchase price of €100m, the investor would pay €30m upfront to NAMA and then enter into a loan agreement for the residual €70m which would see him repaying the principal on an amortising basis to NAMA over a five/seven year horizon. The original debtor’s outstanding obligations to NAMA would fall by €100m. The net impact for NAMA would be positive in a number of respects. It would have generated a transaction in the market which would not otherwise have taken place. It would have replaced a loan of €100m with what is likely to have been a weaker debtor with a performing loan of €70m with a stronger debtor, thereby reducing and diversifying its credit risk. It would also have a cash receipt of €30m which it could then use to reduce its own debt. In reality, it does not require any new money from NAMA; it is a recycling of existing debt but achieving a significant cash payment upfront.

The comments about selling residential properties are more interesting. Because the maturity of most residential mortgages extends well beyond NAMA’s projected lifespan, they are keen to get involved with the two pillar banks to provide mortgage finance. Interestingly, NAMA appear to be willing to provide funds to insure purchasers against future price declines:

Our aim would be to unveil a product with the two banks in the early autumn which meets a number of key criteria: one which generates sales of property controlled either by NAMA debtors or by receivers yet provides an incentive to purchasers to invest at current prices in the knowledge that there will be a mechanism in place which will offer them protection against the risk of negative equity in the event that prices should continue to fall. Given that NAMA is effectively providing state funds for this purpose and the pillar banks will be largely state owned, it raises a question about whether such mortgages should be offered beyond the limited set of residential properties owned by NAMA.

Finally, this passage will prove popular with many:

A number of debtors appear to be trapped in the old mindset whereby it is they and not the lender who sets the terms on which business is done. It is akin to falling overboard and then complaining to your rescuer about the colour of the lifebuoy that he is about to throw in your direction. Some of them have difficulty surrendering the grandiose lifestyles that they seem to regard as their continued entitlement, even if the rest of us are expected to pay for it through higher taxes and cuts to services in our schools and hospitals. We have and will enforce against such debtors. If the taxpayer is being asked to keep you in business, it would seem to be a matter of basic common sense that you do not seek to maintain a lifestyle that is beyond your means. The taxpayer does not owe you a living and certainly does not owe you an unrealistic lifestyle if you are not in a position to repay your debts.

Tough words. Let’s see if they’re accompanied by corresponding actions.

NAMA to Provide Finance

NAMA Chairman Frank Daly gave a speech this morning and the following excerpt is going to get a lot of attention.

NAMA is currently exploring ways in which it could further facilitate the provision of liquidity into the market by providing staple finance for commercial deals and also by exploring options on the residential front. Following the PCAR2 exercise we would, for example, be interested in talking with the two Pillar banks to see how we could work together to move things along in this area. At a time like this, it is imperative that NAMA is creative in terms of identifying solutions to get the market moving.

I’m obviously completely missing something here. Why does this need “exploration”? Why does it have to involve the Pillar banks which are supposed to be shrinking their property loan portfolios, not adding to them?

Here’s a two step guide to selling a NAMA property without needing banks to provide finance: 

1. Have a competitive auction.

2. The winner gets offered the option of either paying in full in cash or getting term finance from NAMA, i.e. they pay back the amount they bid (less cash put down) over time including interest.

What have I missed? And why didn’t NAMA operate like this from the start?

April Fools One Year Ago

Given the day that’s in it, I was contemplating whether to do a funny story. But then I remembered the Irish Independent’s entry in the April Fool’s stakes from last year and figured I couldn’t beat it.

Brendan Keenan interviewing Brian Lenihan:

“With the banks playing for time, and the regulatory system discredited, we needed to establish an asset-relief programme like NAMA. That takes time to put into practice. It can’t be done overnight.”

He makes a point that tends to be overlooked in discussions of whether more should have been done sooner. It could not have been done 12 months ago, with the financial markets fretting over the scale of the budget deficit.

The country came close to not being able to borrow the money to keep it running. Attempting to cover the bank losses as well might have made that danger a reality.

At the time, however, I didn’t find it that funny.

Frank Daly on Residential House Prices

The complications caused by the absence of a properly representative national house price index have been illustrated again via a speech given by NAMA’s Chairman Frank Daly (see NAMAWinelake here). Frank discusses NAMA’s assessment of the residential sector as follows:

On the residential sector the Central Bank is forecasting falls of 60% from peak (end 2006) to end 2012 under its adverse scenario or 55% under its baseline scenario – based we understand on the PTSB\ESRI index. At NAMA we are not surprised by this and it is not as alarming as one would first think. We do not believe that the PTSB\ESRI index currently showing close to 40% fall from peak is realistic and reflective of where the market is. NAMA’s base valuation date was November 2009 and at this date we were already taking account of on average 50% falls in residential property values from the peak.

So while the residential market may have some little more to fall and no one can be certain that an average fall of 60% from peak may not occur in residential house prices, we would believe that the bulk of this has happened already.

Based on my own anecdotal sample, I’m inclined to agree with Daly that residential prices have fallen more than shown by the PTSB\ESRI index. However, the implications for the Central Bank stress testing exercise strike me as a little more serious than Daly suggests. Daly indicates that most of the peak-to-trough decline envisaged in the Central Bank stress scenarios has already happened.

But this raises the question as to whether the stress scenarios should be based on a peak-to-trough calculations or should they be based on an assumption about a current level of prices and an additional assumption about further declines. It’s not clear why the scenarios should be based on a peak-to-trough assumption. And if, for example, the valuation of residential mortgage portfolios is based on an inaccurate assessment of current levels of house prices, then this may undermine the credibility of the calculations. I would hope that the report accompanying the stress test results would discuss this issue.

NAMA Does Not Borrow from the ECB

One of the really strange things about economics reporting in Ireland is that once a politician has said something with enough authority, it becomes repeated as truth time and again by our financial journalists, no matter how untrue. An incredible example of this is the idea that NAMA borrows money from the ECB.

During the long tedious NAMA debates of 2009, every government politician was sent out with a spin line about NAMA involving the government getting cheap money from the ECB. Even though it was untrue then, the idea has remained amazingly popular. Now, as rumours of some form of NAMA 2 (perhaps for mortgages) start to circulate, our financial journalists are still busy misrepresenting the basic transactions at the heart of the original NAMA.

Today’s Sunday Times (not on the web as far as I know and I don’t think it would be free even if it was) contains the following two examples. First, we have Brian Carey and Tom Lyons:

The difficulty is who will fund the establishment of Nama 2. Nama is current funded by the European Central Bank.

Then we have Damien Kiberd:

The Irish state has accepted responsibility for both sides of the several banks’ balance sheets. It has done this by providing guarantees that cannot, in extremis, be honoured and by purchasing distressed bank assets using money from the European Central Bank.

Unfortunately, this is not at all how the government, in the form of NAMA, purchased distressed bank assets. The reality is that NAMA purchased the assets by swapping them in exchange for Irish government-backed bonds. There – that’s how it was done. Not so hard to understand really. In fact’s it’s hard to misunderstand. NAMA is funded by you and me.

Of course, one can – if you want – discuss the idea that NAMA bonds can be repo’d with the ECB, if the mood is on them. (And indeed, from the last time we discussed this, I know there are people who comment on this site who have the ability to twist words in such a way that they can satisfy themselves that somehow saying “the ECB funds NAMA” makes sense – but frankly I think those folk are having a laugh.) But that doesn’t change the basic reality of the NAMA transactions.

Given the importance of NAMA as well as the important role the ECB is playing in propping up the Irish banking system, it is really unfortunate to see the roles played by these organisations being misrepresented in this fashion.