Farm Ireland | 17 January 2017
Vulture funds closing in on hundreds of farms
Hundreds of farms in Ireland face repossession this year as so-called vulture funds swoop on indebted properties, agri-finance experts have warned.
Industry sources say that as many as 200 farmers may be affected by the sale of a €2.5bn Ulster Bank loan portfolio to US vulture fund Cerberus last October. Hundreds more could also come under pressure if the anticipated sale of other Irish mortgage portfolios to global funds goes ahead.
Mortgage debt experts are calling on farm organisations to ramp up efforts to protect those affected, most of whom have been in financial difficulty since the economic crash.
The IFA and the ICMSA have called on banks to "engage constructively" with farmers and to offer realistic restructuring options.
Matt Carey, a debt resolution advisor who represents many farmers, said the Ulster Bank portfolio to Cerberus is causing "severe anxiety" for many of his clients."They do not know how to deal with a vulture fund. There is huge anxiety out there, while Ulster Bank walk away pretty happy."
The vulture funds' primary interest is in the assets, not the debt, said Mr Carey. "They are attracted to the agricultural property and lands that secure debts."
Mr Carey, a former bank manager who worked at the former ACC bank for 37 years, said farmers are now struggling to get loans from other banks to pay back to the hedge funds.
"They have very few options, Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank essentially aren't understanding at all that farmers are finding it very difficult," he said.
"It is tolerable now that if you fail to pay, you lose. Unless the pressure comes from somewhere like the IFA and the other farm organisations to help these people, there will be a free run for the vulture funds. In other words, there will be blood on the floor in 2017."...MORE