Trim farm family fighting vulture fund sale

Story by John Donohoe

Wednesday, 12th September, 2018 8:53pm

Trim farm family fighting vulture fund sale

The McCann family and supporters at their Freffans farm. PHOTO;SEAMUS FARRELLY

A Meath farming family is fighting the sale of their lands by a vulture fund that bought their debts from Ulster Bank.
Promotoria Oyster  - through an asset service company – has placed two separate parcels of land outside Trim on the market, while negotiations are still ongoing with the McCann family and the Irish Farmers Association (IFA).
The IFA has put forward a proposal which would see part of the properties sold in a voluntary sale, rather than a forced sale, and give the fund €90,000 more than it is guiding in what the farm organisation describes as a “forced sale”.
The McCann properties at Freffans and Readsland, Trim, have been placed on sale in an online auction with BidX1, with bidding between 18th and 20th September.
The McCann brothers bought 38 acres at Freffans a decade ago, with security of 20 acres from their family farm provided to Ulster Bank.
Now, Promotoria, through its agency Linked Asset Services, wants to sell the 20 acres of their home farm along with the additional 38 acres to fulfil a debt of €800,000.
The IFA has made a proposal that would see 30 of the 38 acres sold in a voluntary sale by a local auctioneer, and money raised separately to buy the 20 acres, with the aim of raising €500,000  - which is €90,000 more than BidX1 is guiding online.
No agreement has been reached on this and negotiations are ongoing. IFA is leading a protest to prevent the sale of the lands while negotiations are ongoing. 
“We paid a lot more than we were prepared to when we bought it,” Gerry McCann says. “But my furniture business was going well at the time, before recession struck.
“We have been trying to deal with Ulster Bank back over a number of years,  and got nowhere. It's now obvious the reason they didn't want to deal with us was because they wanted to sell to a vulture fund,” he adds.
“Since the vulture fund took over, things have moved quicker,” he added. “We put various proposals to them, but they just wiped their backsides with them.”
He said they appointed a receiver in May, and the pressure has been on “big time” since then. 
“We have trying to work with them to get out of it, and come to an arrangement with voluntary sale .. it's very hard on our parents too,” Gerry says.
The sale of the 20 acres at Freffans would see the family farm split. BidX1 is guiding €250,000 for the 38 acres at Readstown, and €160,000 for the 20 acres at Freffans. IFA points out its proposal would bring in €500,000, some €90,000 more than is guided.
Promontoria Oyster was set up to acquire and manage financial assets, including non-performing loans, related securities and hedging instruments, in October 2016. US company Cerberus has set up over a dozen entities with the word 'Promontoria' in their names to manage distressed assets bought in Ireland, Britain and Europe. 
Neither Linked Asset Services or BidX1 have been forthcoming with comment.

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