Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stopping the Barbarians at the gate?

I see in the papers that that one of the US private equity firms looking over the Irish banks is KKR( Kohlberg Kravis Roberts), who first came to public attention through their 1988 takeover of RJR Nabisco, in what was, at that time, the largest leveraged takeover in US corporate history.

The deal has become familiar to millions through the book & film “Barbarians at the Gate”.

The basic structure of such leveraged buyouts is that the buyer uses the assets of the target company as collateral, borrowing money against those assets in order to buy them. The general approach is to maximise the amount borrowed and minimise the amount of one’s own capital tied up in the deal.

Then typically, acquisition is quickly followed by slash, burn and asset strip. Reduce costs as quickly as possible, close loss-making or marginally profitable units, dispose of non-core activities and pay down the debt as quickly as possible. Get the business as lean as possible and sell it on for a handsome profit within 3-5 years.

Seeing that KKR name and remembering the movie, it put a mad idea into my head so I went to see my local Bank of Ireland manager.

“Look” I said to him “you fellows need a white knight. If the bank is prepared to lend me €2bn, non-recourse of course, I’ll invest it in the bank and that’ll take all the heat off. You guys can easily raise that money on the international money markets because you’ve got a Government guarantee. I’ll give you the shares I buy as collateral for the loan. With a bit of luck we’ll have turned the corner on the recession and the property bubble bust by the time the Govt guarantee runs out and my loan needs to be refinanced. If not, worst case scenario is the Govt ends up with my shares – still a much better outcome than having those US barbarians on the share register, don’t you think?”

Well I didn’t really know what to expect, but the BOI seem quite interested in my proposition and I’m expecting a positive decision from them within 7 days.

In fact, it all went so well that I decided to pitch the same idea to AIB, Anglo and PermanentTSB. As with BOI, I’ve gotten a very positive response from them all and should know within weeks which, if not all, are willing to play ball.

By Christmas, I may well be the owner of the 90%+ of the Irish banking system. Wouldn’t that be one hell of a do? I better start trying to lose a bit of weight – I’ll want to look good in the Louis Copeland tin of fruit for all those media appearances.

I can already see the headlines in the FT and the Wall St Journal:
Mollox 1 Barbarians 0.

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