Hit especially hard by the financial crisis, Ireland has been praised for the aggressiveness of its austerity measures. Finance minister Brian Lenihan has said that “you would have riots if you tried to do this” in other parts of Europe.
Yesterday, Mr Lenihan unveiled the eye-watering details of the toxic assets that the country’s “bad bank”—otherwise known as the National Asset Management Agency, or NAMA—will buy from the country’s struggling lenders. When NAMA was created last year, the government said it expected to assume banks’ troubled assets at around a 30% discount. Yesterday, the first tranche of assets transferred to NAMA featured a 47% haircut. What’s more, the banks must now meet new capital requirements—a 7% core equity ratio and 8% core Tier-1 ratio.
The combination of steeply discounted asset transfers and strict new capital requirements will result in significant fundraising for the banks involved. Nearly all of the lenders are likely to end up majority-owned by the state when the capital raising is complete. Only Bank of Ireland is expected to escape government control by tapping private investors. As a result, the bank’s shares soared in trading today, even though it reported a €1.5bn loss for the nine months to December. If this is Ireland’s healthiest bank, the government’s drastic actions are warranted.