8 October 2014

Property deals are on the rise as sales reach £400m in Northern Ireland


Over £400m has been invested in Northern Ireland’s commercial property so far this year, it has been revealed.

For the first nine months of the year 21 transactions totalling over £411m were signed, according to property consultants CBRE.

Figures for the last quarter of the year – from July to September – signalled a bumper time for property deals with over £267m changing hands, compared to just under £144m for the first half of the year.

The improving balance sheet within the sector was boosted by a raft of significant investment sales, with 94% of the deals focused on retail property, including the sale of Forestside Shopping Centre in Belfast, Abbey Centre in Newtownabbey and Londonderry’s Foyleside Shopping Centre.

All three were part of the portfolio of Northern Ireland businessmen Ken Cheevers and John B McGuckian, and were put on sale by Ulster Bank in Project Swallowtail.

Forestside and Foyleside were bought by Kildare Partners in the Republic – backing the original owners McGuckian and Cheevers – while the Abbey Centre is now held by NewRiver Retail in England.

Meanwhile, the disposal of Ulster Bank’s Project Achill continues, according to commercial property news website CoStar.

The website claims that Texas-based private equity fund Lone Star has acquired the largest tranche of its assets, known as pool A, which includes Exchange House in Belfast, plus a number of other properties across England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

Ulster Bank is currently attempting to secure the best possible recovery across the balance of the €1.2bn (£940m) Project Achill portfolio.

The bank is understood to be committed to selling pool A to Lone Star for around €400m (£314m) – reflecting just over a 30% discount on the circa unpaid balance €550m (£431m).

The fund is also expected to win pool C of Project Achill, which includes development land in Northern Ireland and other assets.

US hedge fund Davidson Kempner has won pool D, the nominally-valued €91m tranche, secured by Belfast’s upmarket The ARC Apartments at Titanic Quarter – over 200 apartments – and The Gateway Offices, in a deal that is thought to sit at around €82m (£64m).

Bank of Ireland – the joint original senior lender on the underlying pool F borrower, Paddy McKillen’s Belfast Office Properties Limited – has won the 50% stake of the unpaid loan it did not already own.

Pool F is secured by two major shopping centres, including Ards Shopping Centre in Newtownards and Waterfront Plaza in Belfast, anchored by PwC, and Mallusk Industrial Estate in Newtownabbey.

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