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Anglo Irish Bank Ordered to Explain Possible Merger, Asset Sale

Anglo Irish Bank Corp. was ordered by a federal judge in New York to explain whether it submitted a plan to merge with Irish Nationwide Building Society and detail its sales of U.S. assets.

Anglo Irish Bank has until 5 p.m. today to disclose whether it has sold “substantial commercial assets” in the U.S. and whether the sale of all its remaining U.S.-based assets is imminent, according to an order issued yesterday by U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe in Manhattan.

The order was in response to a letter from Fir Tree Partners, a New York-based investment firm that sued Anglo Irish Bank in February, claiming it owns $200 million of notes the bank issued in the U.S. The Irish government became the sole shareholder of the bank by 2009 and began to liquidate its assets at discounts that reduce its ability to pay creditors including Fir Tree, according to the complaint.

Fir Tree seeks an order blocking Anglo Irish Bank from transferring any U.S. assets out of the country so it can force the bank to honor its debt obligations.

Anglo Irish Bank spokesmen Billy Murphy and Anthony Kavanagh didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment after regular business hours yesterday.

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said June 15 that senior bondholders should share in the losses of the nationalized Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society, reversing a policy of protecting owners of senior securities. A day later he said there was “no urgency” to the plan and his comments had been given too much weight because of the crisis in Greece.

The case is Fir Tree Capital Opportunity Master Fund LP v. Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Limited, 11-00955, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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