Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Property problems in Northern Ireland

Property in Northern Ireland is down 40 percent from peak, compared to "only" 20 percent in the UK generally (Nationwide index) and now a new threat rears its head. The Republic of Ireland has established a "toxic bank" (much like the UK and USA keep mooting but never quite making) called the National Asset Management Agency, or NAMA.

Unfortunately during the boom Irish banks were very active in lending on property developments in Northern Ireland and across the Irish sea to Liverpool. NAMA now has a lot of these defunct developments on its books and is threatening to dump them into a falling market, on the grounds that the longer it waits the more it loses.

Meanwhile British banks are being pressured by the UK government not to dump assets into the market in order to put some kind of floor under prices. The deal seems to be: suck up the pain and we'll make sure you don't run out of money.

But NAMA could upset this applecart. And if NAMA breaks ranks the other banks may feel the must also sell while they can. There will be buyers; there are vulture funds just waiting for prime assets to drop into their laps - at 50p in the pound! They've actually been complaining that the UK government is stopping them from profiting by its bank rescues.

Currently we're in a "phony war" with asset prices held up by the politicians. It remains to be seen how long they can keep the show on the road.

Link: BBC

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