Thursday, January 7, 2010

Economics 07/01/2010: NTMA's end of year results

Here is an interesting one: NTMA published their End Year review. Per statement (page 3 top): “The National Pensions Reserve Fund Discretionary Investment Portfolio (the Fund excluding the preference shares in Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks held on the direction of the Minister for Finance) earned a return of 20.9 per cent in 2009. Since the Fund’s inception in 2001, the Investment Portfolio has delivered an annualised return of 2.6 per cent per annum. Including the bank preference shares and related warrants, which are held at cost and zero respectively, the Fund recorded a return of 11.6 per cent in 2009. At 31 December 2009 the total Fund’s value stood at €22.3 billion.”

If the state were to invest €7 billion it gave AIB and BofI for their preference shares in the Discretionary Fund, the returns on these investments would have been roughly €1.463 billion in 2009. Instead, we got zilch in risk-adjusted returns.

Ok, one would say that ‘investing’ in AIB and BofI is a sensible undertaking as the banks are market-determining entities for ISE. Nope, wrong. Page 4 of release states: “As a result, the Investment Portfolio had an elevated level of quoted equity investment of 80 per cent following completion of the recapitalisation in May compared with 57 per cent before the preference share investments were made. The Fund took advantage of the strong equity market rally to reduce its absolute risk and exposure to the equity markets through phased equity sales of €2.7 billion through the remainder of the year. The Investment Portfolio’s exposure to the quoted equity markets had been reduced to 63 per cent by year end.”

So as the result of AIB & BofI ‘investments’, NPRF is now more heavily geared toward equities as a class. Full stop. Now, give this a thought. We have a Pension fund with 63% exposure to equities that has been forced to sell equity on the basis of the need to re-gear toward banks shares in the economy where banks are the weakest point… Aggressive high risk investment strategy. What’s next? A highly geared derivative undertaking with taxpayers money? Ooops – we already got one, called NAMA SPV.

Back to page 3 stuff: “During 2009 the Minister for Finance directed the Fund to invest €7 billion in preference shares issued by Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks for the purposes of recapitalising these institutions. The terms of the deal, which was negotiated by the NTMA, include a non-cumulative fixed dividend of 8 per cent on the preference shares and warrants which give an option to purchase up to 25 per cent of the enlarged ordinary share capital of each bank following exercise of the warrants. The dividends payable on the preference shares are not recognised or accrued by the Fund until declaration by the bank concerned. These investments were funded by €4 billion from the Fund’s own resources and by €3 billion from a frontloading of the Exchequer contributions to the Fund for 2009 and 2010.”

Two points here:
  1. 2009 thus saw a direct transfer of €3 billion to NPRF from the economy that has contracted by 10.5% (GNP). Since NPRF is a de facto piggy bank for public sector pensions only, this type of fiscal management, of course, has no precedent. It is equivalent to taking from the strained middle classes (taxpayers) to award future pay for public employees.
  2. This reminds us as to just how outrageously overpriced the preference shares we bought were. AIB and BofI preference shares yielding 8%? Remember – these two banks have balancesheets weaker than those of the main UK banks. Yet, at the same time we were signing off on 8% return, the UK banks bonds were yielding 12-15%. What’s the opportunity cost of such a sweetheart deal for the banks from taxpayers’ perspective? 7% yield foregone, or in 2009 terms - €490 million.

Add the two bolded numbers: €1.953 billion is the opportunity cost to the taxpayers of the AIB and BofI capital injection in foregone earnings. This is more than double the amount of savings generated by the Exchequer through public sector wage ‘cuts’ in 2010 Budget.

Another interesting thingy – page 4: “NAMA will acquire loans with a nominal value of approximately €80 billion”. Hold on, folks – was it €77 billion or €80 billion? Or should we take it from the NTMA that +/-€3 billion in taxpayers funds exposure is simply pittance that can be rounded off? What’s next? February 2010 numbers rising to €85 billion, then to €90 billion by March? Why not just state ‘we’ll buy anything they throw at us’ and close off this Cossack Dance with the numbers?

Pages 5 (end) and 6 provide a small, but interesting insight into operational efficiencies of the State Claims Agency: “There has been a substantial decline in employer and public liability claim volumes associated with incidents that have occurred since the SCA was established. Since 2002 the number of employer liability claims has fallen by 71 per cent and the number of public liability claims has fallen by 19 per cent. The total number of active employer and public liability claims has fallen by 35 per cent in 2009 compared with 2008.”

Sounds like good news? All claims are down since 2002 and in particular between 2008 and 2009. Happy times? Not really: “During 2009 the SCA paid out a total of €64 million against all classes of claims. This compares with a total of €53 million in 2008.” So let me run this by you – cases numbers are down 35%, but payouts are up 20.8%! I guess the gravity of injuries in the public sector rose dramatically during the year.

Lastly, Appendix 1 lists bond issues for 2009. This is a nice summary of the fine work being done by the NTMA in placing our debt (although most of it has gone to the banks to be rolled into ECB). But the worrying thing is the time profile of these bonds. €14.53 billion of the bonds issued this year will mature (and will be rolled over) during or before 2014 - the deadline for our compliance with the Stability & Growth Pact ceilings on deficit and debt. Such a large amount, coming already on top of the billions in short/medium-term debt issued in 2008 doesn't do much to support markets confidence in Ireland actually delivering on 2014 commitment...


Anonymous said...

''..But the worrying thing is the time profile of these bonds. €14.53 billion of the bonds issued this year will mature ..''.

The NTMA have been expanding the number of primary dealers they use in the Bond markets.
Presumably these dealers are the buyers of our bonds and they make the case for Ireland by selling into the secondary market.

I think an interesting question to ask who is are credit default swaps being purchased by the dealers to hedge their bets.
Secondly if they are what is the spread between the cost of CDS and the Bond yield?.In other words what is the risk free rate these dealers are getting?
This ,in my opinion,would be one pointer to whether these dealers will continue to buy our bonds.

The other point which might lower that spread is whether we have passed the point where the marginal utility of debt turns negative re injecting growth in the economy.

The euro is not backed by the gold standard and has no effective tax base.So maybe increased Quantative Easing by ECB (through Government bond purchses by our Zobie banks and repo at ECB) will keep the show on the road.

Regarding your issue with the Growth and stability pact.Maybe they will try to roll up these bonds into one 10 year or 20 year bond now the perception is better of our finances and spreads are lower.
Another possiibility is the repo'd bonds deposited with ECB will be rolled over when they reach maturity and will de facto become perpetuity bonds.This would effectively lower any coming liabilities for the current account defecit in 2014 and we would meet the growth and stability pact target albeit through creative accounting.

By that time the EU should have set up a Federal EU tax.Effectively our debts will be written down through conversion to perpetuity bonds.
The ECB will then emasculate the Irish states capacity to raise money internationally by forcing on it a system of raising revenue similar to Muni bonds in the USA.
These bonds will be linked to local Irish taxes where holders of the bonds can claim against income tax.International investors would have no reason to invest in them.

This way the EU gets what it wants , an EU federal tax ,German voters are satisfied because interest payments are made in perpetuity on these bonds even if the principal is never redeemed,the integrity of the Euro as a currency is ensured and the Irish state as a member of the EU also survives with a less troublesome capacity to inflict damage outside of Ireland.

This is speculation but German politics will in my view drive the type of measures that lead to my conclusions above.


patrick1978 said...

“NAMA will acquire loans with a nominal value of approximately €80 billion”. Hold on, folks – was it €77 billion or €80 billion?

I suppose thats why they call it a "bad bank" Constantin, they are terrible with their calculus