Anglo-INBS Loan Loss Assessments

The Central Bank of Ireland has released an addendum to its Financial Measures Programme report covering loan losses at Anglo and INBS.  It concludes the loan losses estimates that were produced last September are still satisfactory.

What does this mean for the remaining Anglo bondholders (€200 million paid out on last Friday)? The government’s policy on this issue is a little unclear to me at this point. The Irish Times reported in April

the head of financial regulation Matthew Elderfield said losses may be imposed on senior bondholders at Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society if the cost of the two failed institutions rises above the current €34 billion bill.

This wording also suggests the converse—that without evidence of higher losses than €34 billion, senior bondholders would be repaid in full. However, I doubt if policy on this issue is being set by Mr. Elderfield. In the week after the stress test announcements, government politicians continued to maintain that they wanted to see burden sharing with Anglo and INBS bondholders. For instance, listen to junior minister Brian Hayes discussing the issue here on the April 2nd edition of Saturday View (56 minutes in).

There isn’t really any need to base such a decision on whether the Central Bank announces combined losses of more than €34 billion. An amended version of the Credit Institutions bill could be introduced that allows the Minister to apply haircuts to all bonds issued by banks that required enormous support from the state, and perhaps this is what government politicians have in mind when they say they are still pushing for burden sharing.

Anyway, there has been no official response to this release from the Department of Finance, who have instead preferred to issue press releases on the subdebt buybacks proposed by BoI, EBS and ILP. My guess is that the government is hoping this issue will just fade away but, if asked, they will still claim that Anglo senior debt shouldn’t be paid out on but that they’re still “discussing the issue with their European partners”.

As a purely political matter, I’d guess that if and when Ireland gets a lower rate on its EU loans, that may prove to be the moment that they admit they had to give up on haircuts for Anglo bonds. Investors who bought these bonds at steep discounts over the past year (because so many people assumed the government would not pay out on them) will have obtained a fantastic rate of return.