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.”
- 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.
- 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
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. UK
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...