A 17 percent stake in Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) has been sold to London-based private investment firm, Walbrook Capital.
In a statement on the transaction, NAMA – which was set up by the Irish government in 2009 and took over the management of tens of billions of property loans – said the sale was by Irish Life, which was an original private shareholder in NAMA’s holding company, National Asset Management Agency Investment Ltd (NAMAIL).
Though the statement did not state why the stake was sold, it appears to be an accounting-based decision taken in the wake of Irish Life being nationalised earlier this year. The nationalisation meant NAMA became majority owned by the government, thus forcing Eurostat, the agency responsible for reporting the national debt of Europe’s countries, to include NAMA when calculating Ireland’s debts.
Eurostat said NAMA was now majority privately-owned following the sale by Irish Life, which was a “necessary condition for a special purpose entity to be classified outside the “General Governmental sector”.
Following Irish Life’s sale, the private sector investors in NAMAIL are New Ireland Assurance Co and Prescient Investment Managers, Ireland – formerly called AIB Investment Managers. The remaining 49 percent of the shares are owned by NAMA itself.
Walbrook, the company that has bought the 17 percent stake, was formed in 2011 as a private investment firm in the credit, real estate and renewable energy sectors. Its founding partners are Michael Keeley, Geoff Broomhead and Simon Haworth.
Keeley was a banker with Barclays Capital who left in 2009 in order to set up Walbrook forerunner, Protium, which concurrently bought $12.3 billion of his former employer’s toxic assets. A report in the Guardian newspaper at the time said the assets would not actually be removed from the bank's balance sheet for regulatory purposes but the accounting treatment would be changed.
Of the NAMA deal, Keeley said in a statement: “The decision to invest in NAMAIL followed a careful assessment of the outlook for the Irish economy and in particular its property sector, which we believe is now close to stabilisation. Furthermore, we were impressed by the NAMA management team and the progress that they have achieved to date. Consequently, we believe that NAMAIL represents an excellent long term investment opportunity.”