Anglo-Irish Bank nationalisation

Last week the Republic of Ireland nationalised Anglo-Irish Bank. The Irish Government had originally planned a fresh capital infusion, but discovered (a) the bank’s balance sheet was worse than anticipated and (b) its chairman took out 84 million euro of loans, including some to buy shares (very dicey practise; and the shares are practically worthless now).

Having last weekend to digest the news, two matters come to mind. Colm Keena (Irish Times) is highlighting the potential painful effect Anglo-Irish nationalisation could have on Sean Quinn and his family group of businesses. Mr Quinn owns 15% of Anglo-Irish shares, which, like I said, are now practically worthless. The point is that Quinn Group Ltd is a major employer, including health and car insurance, manufacturing, and publs and hotels.

This relates to the second matter: how far Government will overtly manage the nationalised bank. If it’s aggressive in calling in outstanding loans, that could bankrupt business and accelerate unemployment. Columnist John McManus suggests that whoever is appointed to run Anglo-Irish (perhaps PwC), they need a clear mandate and independence to challenge Government, to prevent it from micro-management.

For us customers up North, the relevance is that it would not likely serve our interests to see the Quinn Group companies go under (they both employ and supply goods and services we use). Also, if McManus’ analysis is right, then we don’t want to see an Irish Government drip-feed approach to AIB (First Trust) and Bank of Ireland, if indeed they’ll both ultimately require a more comprehensive recapitalisation programme.

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