Saturday, October 2, 2010

Economics 2/10/10: Brian Lucey's comment on Minister Lenihan's statement

In rare occasions, I re-print here some comments made available to me by other economists and analysts. This is the full text of Professor Brian Lucey's comment in yesterday's Irish Examiner (not available on the newspaper website):

"THE Government yesterday engaged in a series of interventions, announcements, and actions which in my opinion have brought the prospect of an intervention from the IMF or the European Union significantly closer.

The major announcements were threefold: the announcement of the losses of Anglo, the bombshell in relation to Allied Irish Banks, and the startling admission that the Government was voluntarily withdrawing from international markets. Let us examine all three of these.

In relation to Anglo Irish Bank, we finally begin to see clarity and reality from the Government; for the first time in two and a half years estimates begin to overlap. The worst-case scenario that the Government has put forward is that Anglo will lose €35 billion. This is the average estimate. We must take this government figure with a very large pinch of salt. The Government over the last two years has given us at least four “final” figures for the total cost of Anglo. God be with the days when it was only 4.8bn. It remains highly likely in my view and in the view of independent analysis external and internal to the country, that the Anglo losses could stretch towards €40bn.

is an eye-watering amount of money, equivalent to nine months’ total government expenditure. While this on its own is bearable, what is unbearable, and should not be borne, is that once again bondholders take precedence over citizens.

The only rationale for having such an extensive guarantee in 2008 was that over the period of time the banks would be cleaned of their bad loans, the banks would be cleaned of their bad management, and the bondholders would be dealt with. Subordinated bondholders should get nothing, senior debt holders should have been faced with a stark choice; either take an offer of perhaps 30 cent on the euro or take their chances on the market place. A debt-for-equity swap should also have been considered.

On all three of these issues the Government has failed. We are told that instead of NAMA taking loans in excess of €5 million, it will only take loans in excess of €20m; this leaves a large amount of impaired and toxic loans on the balance sheet of the banks. It is these very toxic loans that imperilled the banks in the first place and which will make it next to impossible for the banks to engage in any meaningful credit creation.

As if Anglo were not enough, we are also told that AIB will require an additional 3bn. The state will end up with 70%+ ownership of AIB; this will rise as AIB will find it difficult to raise the required funds from the markets or from asset disposals and will consequently have to ask the taxpayer to invest further. The ludicrous situation is that the taxpayer will be taking ownership of a much weaker bank than had this been done two years ago. AIB has sold the jewel in its crown, the Polish operation, and is actively selling its US and British operations. We will own a bank which has sold off its profit-making arms and will be left with a carcass.

Finally, it appears, in so far as one can glean from the gnomic and somewhat confused utterances of Eamon Ryan, that the Government were told that the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) did not feel they could raise funds in the markets. The Government has therefore locked itself out of the markets until early 2011. Presumably, the hope is that by 2011 a miraculous change in Irish and world economic conditions will have occurred.

What remains absolutely unclear is what plans, if any, the Government has for a situation where in 2011 the NTMA finds it either impossible to raise funds or finds that those funds are prohibitively expensive. There are in excess of 5bn of Irish government bonds maturing in 2011, these will have to be rolled over or repaid. What if we cannot raise these funds?

In that case the Irish Government will have to raise funds from the International Monetary Fund or from European funds, and this of course ignores the tens of billions of debt which the banks have to roll over on a regular basis. In my view we have moved closer to the end game of losing national economic sovereignty.

Brian Lucey is associate professor in finance at Trinity College Dublin. "

Irish Examiner 1/10/2010


etz said...

They sure seem to have lost all credibility.

Oidunno said...

A Daniel come to judgement..Yea a Daniel.. (Merchant of Venice Act IV Sc1)