GOLDMAN PAYS STOCK AWARDS BEFORE VOTE TAX - Goldman Sachs paid 10 of its top executives $65m worth of restricted stock hours before Congress voted to raise taxes on wealthy individuals as part of its fiscal cliff deal. The investment bank speeded up the delivery of its yearly stock awards, narrowly avoiding the higher tax rate for those earning more than $400,000 that came into effect at the start of the new year. Such shares, which are tied to bonuses granted in previous years, had traditionally been given to Goldman executives in January, says the Financial Times. The awards were disclosed in a series of filings made public on New Year’s Eve. They included 508,104 worth of shares valued at about $65m based on the bank’s closing price the day before. The shares were awarded to Goldman power players including Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive, Gary Cohn, chief operating officer, and John Rogers, chief of staff and secretary to the bank’s board of directors. The hastened delivery is likely to raise eyebrows given Mr Blankfein’s previous remarks regarding the fiscal cliff and taxes. The CEO wrote in the Wall Street Journal in November that “tax increases, especially for the wealthiest, are appropriate”. He added that tax increases would need to be joined by decreased government spending to create a “balanced solution to the debt problem”.
BALLYMORE'S BRITISH ARM €1 BILLION IN DEFICIT - The British subsidiary of Nama-backed developer Ballymore Properties was €1 billion in the red at the end of March, the latest figures show reports today's Irish Times. Ballymore Properties Holdings Ltd, the holding company for the Seán Mulryan-controlled group’s British activities, had a deficit of £811 million sterling (€1 billion) between its assets and liabilities on March 31st, the end of its last financial year, according to accounts filed at the UK Companies Office. The group had debts of more than £1 billion and stock amounting to £437 million. Much of the debt relating to group’s British operations was transferred to the State’s asset management agency, Nama, in 2010. The overall Ballymore group agreed a business plan with Nama in 2011 and the accounts for the British holding company state that performance targets agreed with the agency were being met. The company says that when the directors - Mr Mulryan, John Mulryan, Brian Fagan and David Pearson - signed off on the accounts last October they were confident it had enough cash to meet its liabilities for at least 12 months from that date. Ballymore Properties Holdings lost £376 million in the year to March 31st, largely due to a £282.4 million writedown in the value of its stock. The biggest element of this was a reduction in its estimate of the value of its development properties to £91 million from £319 million.
PERMANENT TSB 'HAS THE MONEY' TO PAY MATURING BONDS - State-owned Permanent TSB has the money in place to meet €2.7 billion of bond debt due to be repaid by the bank in the coming months without issuing new bonds, the bank said in a statement. The debts falling due include a $1.7 billion (€1.2 billion) bond that matures in just two weeks, and a second bond due to be repaid in April, writes the Irish Independent. The payments can be met without issuing new bonds, or using up any of the €4 billion of capital injected by the government to rescue 'Permo', which was the last of the banks to be taken into state hands, the bank said after an analyst suggested it might sell bonds this week. "Permanent TSB has already secured the resources to finance upcoming bond maturities including a maturity due this month, and will not be required to issue any bonds in the near future. In tandem with its restructuring plan, the bank has plans in place to cover its liquidity and financing requirements through the coming months and has sufficient collateral in place to raise funds as necessary," the bank added. The money to repay the bonds has been raised through new borrowing agreements put in place with private sector lenders and not by increasing borrowings from the European Central Bank (ECB), the Independent has learnt. The new financing agreements are understood to be secured against a portion of the bank's collateral, including some of its portfolio of mortgage debt.
7,000 STRUGGLING MORTGAGE HOLDERS LOSE INTEREST RELIEF - Nearly 7,000 mortgage holders lost their mortgage interest relief after failing to make payments on their homes last year. The struggling home owners would have to make three consecutive payments in order to qualify for the tax relief again, says the Irish Examiner. The Revenue Commissioner’s policy of cancelling mortgage interest relief for customers struggling to make their payments has been criticised by Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson Micheal McGrath. Deputy McGrath likened the cutting of the relief to the most vulnerable mortgage holders, as similar to switching off a patient’s life support. "It is like turning off the life support apparatus for a patient in an intensive care unit," he said. Figures released to Mr McGrath showed that 7,000 people had their interest relief cut after failing to make mortgage repayments for six months. "I am informed by Revenue that some 6,982 accounts have been ceased for mortgage interest relief in 2012 due to non-payment," Finance Minister Micheal Noonan told Mr McGrath in response to a parliamentary question.