Anglo Irish Investment ‘Regretted,’ Billionaire Sean Quinn Says

Sean Quinn, Ireland’s richest man in 2008, “regretted” investing in Anglo Irish Bank Corp., which contributed to Quinn Group’s writedowns of almost 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) over two years.

“These equity investments were clearly ill-timed, costly and are very much regretted,” Quinn said in statement published on his Web site yesterday. “These losses were primarily on our investment in Anglo Irish Bank in which the combined family holding remains at 15 percent as announced in July last year.”

Quinn Group wrote down 829 million euros in 2007 and will register markdowns of another 130 million euros in 2008, largely as a result of the Anglo Irish investment, the statement said. Quinn Group made a pretax loss of 425 million euros in 2007. Anglo Irish Bank lost 98 percent of its value in 2008 and was forced to accept a 1.5 billion-euro government bailout.

“While these equity investments were clearly a mistake, I think it is also worthy of note that other investments made outside of the Quinn Group in recent years have been extremely successful,” he said.

The Quinn Group will generate a profit, before exceptional items, of between 400 million euros and 500 million euros in 2009, the statement said.

Quinn’s empire spans insurance, cement plants in Ireland, as well as hotels, bars and the Belfry golf course in the English Midlands, the venue for four Ryder Cups. The businessman and his family have an estimated fortune of 4.7 billion euros, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

Quinn, 61, stood down as chairman of the Quinn Group’s insurance subsidiary last October after Ireland’s financial regulator fined him and the company for making loans that breached regulations.

Quinn began his business career in the 1970s by selling gravel from his family’s County Fermanagh farm. He went on to build Ireland’s second-biggest cement-maker before expanding into more than 20 businesses including insurance.

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