DUBLIN - Ireland's new National Asset Management Agency would consider buying loans from Irish units of foreign-owned banks under the country's bad bank scheme, the finance ministry said on Friday.
The bad bank law, to be published this summer, will focus primarily on six Irish-owned banks covered by Dublin's state guarantee for bank liabilities.
However, NAMA would consider buying assets -- ranging in quality from well-performing to soured loans -- from other banks operating in Ireland, a ministry spokesman said, confirming an earlier report in the Irish Times newspaper.
He could not confirm the newspaper's assertion that NAMA officials had met executives from Ulster Bank, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, and the Irish unit of Belgian banking and insurance group KBC, and were expected to meet Danske Bank's National Irish Bank.
Halifax and Bank of Scotland (Ireland), parts of Lloyds Banking Group, have also provided syndicated development loans in Ireland and could thus be eligible, the newspaper said.
Bank of Scotland (Ireland) declined to comment. An Ulster Bank spokeswoman said it would reply later, as did a spokesman for National Irish Bank.
KBC said its Ireland unit did not have significant exposure to real estate development finance -- about 620 million euros, or 3 percent of KBC Ireland's total assets.
NAMA's buying of assets was therefore not defining for KBC Ireland, although KBC was supportive of the Irish government's efforts and was maintaining a dialogue with NAMA officials.
We have, at this point, not formulated any intention to be involved directly ourselves, a KBC spokeswoman said.
NAMA would consider buying loans from foreign-owned banks on a case-by-case basis, if they have Irish property developer customers who also drew loans from Irish banks taking part in the 'bad bank' scheme, the Irish Times said.
The agency was set up to take over up to 90 billion euros ($126.6 billion) in risky property loans and assets currently clogging up the Irish banking sector.
The finance ministry spokesman said Ireland last year invited foreign-owned institutions to take part in its bank guarantee scheme but most of them rejected the offer because they were covered by similar schemes in their own countries. ($1=.7108 Euro)
(Reporting by Andras Gergely; Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing by John Stonestreet and Simon Jessop)