Saturday, August 15, 2009
A lesson from Iceland
Kaupthing's loan book, which was leaked on to the internet last week, shows that around one third, or €6bn (£5.1bn), of its €16bn corporate loan book was going to a small elite of men connected to the bank's owners and management.
Several investigations into Kaupthing centre on share ramping, where the bank would allegedly give loans with no interest or security in order to buy shares in that same bank – boosting the share price.
One particularly murky incident revolves around the acquisition of a 5pc stake in Kaupthing by a company called QFinance linked to Mohammed bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Sheikh of Qatar. Several weeks before the banks collapsed, a press release stated that the transaction showed that "Kaupthing's position is strong and we believe in the bank's strategy and management."
Only after the bank collapsed several weeks later did it emerge that the Qatari investor "bought" the stake using a loan from Kaupthing itself and a holding company associated with one of its employees. The bank appears, in effect, to have been purchasing its own shares, which does not seem to be uncommon; investigators are also looking at a similar purchase of a 2.5pc stake in Kaupthing by London-based property entrepreneurs Moises and Mendi Gertner.
Officials have also questioned why loans to senior Kaupthing employees to buy shares in the bank were allegedly written off days before the collapse.
Companies connected to Exista, the Gudmundsson brothers' opaque investment vehicle that owned their stake in Kaupthing, received €1.86bn in loans. Their close business associate, Mr Tchenguiz, appears to have personally borrowed €1.74bn in loans to fund his private investments e_SEnD from stakes in Sainsburys to Mitchells & Butlers. Mr Tchenguiz is now being sued by Kaupthing's administration committee for the return of £643m.
Kevin Stanford, co-founder of the Karen Millen retail chain and one of Britain's wealthiest retailers, also got €519m in loans and was Kaupthing's fourth biggest shareholder. His company's purchase of credit default swaps in the bank is also under scrutiny, though there is no suggestion of wrongdoing his or his companies' part.
According to the leaked document, many of these loans carried little or no security and were listed as belonging to Kaupthing's "exception list" – seemingly those who received banking services on favourable terms.
The loan books of Landsbanki and Glitnir remain in the hands of their administration committees – to the frustration of many Icelanders who fear they may yield equally unusual surprises.
Posted by Southofdub at 9:55 PM