Monday, December 20, 2010

Ireland's UK property empire unwinds as it sells London assets - Telegraph

The task facing the organisation appears monumental, with 69pc of the loans linked to non-income-producing land and development sites, according to research seen by The Sunday Telegraph. NAMA has a stated aim of reducing the loanbook by 25pc over the next three years and also has €5bn to invest in its assets, but the unwinding process could take a decade.

How Nama behaves is key to London and the UK, because 30pc of its assets are in Britain. One executive at a leading British property company who met with NAMA directors recently says it is "preparing to act" and has a "clarity of purpose" that puts it ahead of British banks in the unwinding process. The EU bail-out, the source said, provides NAMA with headroom and flexibility, and the fact the loans were bought at such a sharp discount – an average of 58pc for the first tranche – means it does not have to worry about suffering writedowns by agreeing disposals below the book value of properties.

NAMA has not publicly stated that its policy on foreign assets will be different to those in Ireland – and it declined to respond to telephone and email questions from The Sunday Telegraph. But sources believe disposals in London are likely to be targeted quickly because of the liquidity of the bullish market.

The Citigroup tower is already up for sale, after Maud and Quinlan were encouraged to seek a disposal by the syndicate of lenders, which includes NAMA, that provided £875m for the deal.

Analysts estimate that there is £10bn of Irish-owned property in London, although much of it, including Hamley's toy store on Regent Street, which is owned by the family behind Brennans Bread, is not in NAMA.

The organisation has not publicly revealed which assets are under its remit, but they are thought to include The Connaught, Berkeley and Claridge's hotels – although McKillen, the owner, is legally challenging the transfer of the debt to NAMA – along with Battersea Power Station, Goldman Sachs' European headquarters at River Court, Louis Vuitton's flagship store on New Bond Street which is owned by Daly, and 20 Grosvenor Square, a former European HQ of the US navy, which is backed by debt from Irish Nationwide.

Some assets are already being off-loaded, such as Audley Square Car Park in Mayfair, which was owned by Quinlan. NAMA is understood to have agreed to sell the site to Qatar Holdings for €180m after buying the loan from Anglo Irish for €40m, leaving it with a healthy profit. The site has planning consent for a 220,000 sq ft residential scheme and the deal highlights the demand for prime assets with development potential.

According to Harm Meijer, property analyst at JP Morgan, the demand for such assets in London means the market could "absorb" any NAMA sales without asset values being dampened.

"The evidence we are seeing is that some prime buyers are now prepared to look at quality secondary," he said. "Average transaction volumes in the UK are about £31bn a year. I think we could go above that next year."

Rob Corbett, head of Irish investment in the UK at Jones Lang LaSalle, pointed to another potential impact from the unwinding of Ireland's property bubble – the disappearance of two key drivers for the pre-2007 UK property market, Irish investors and Irish banks such as Bank of Ireland, Anglo Irish, and Allied Irish.

"I would say there had been a 99pc reduction in buyside activity," Corbett said.

However, the central London investment market has powered on. Last week, Hammerson and the Oman Investment Fund sold Bishops Square for £557m, more than 25pc the office building valuation of last year. "There is so much equity chasing London at the moment," says Corbett.

Nonetheless, the unwinding of Irish assets is set to be a key topic for the property market in 2011 and beyond. In 2007, Quinlan and Co had the market dancing to the Irish flute, but next year the sound from Irish investors threatens to be the Death March as they depart trophy London assets.

From "Irish flute to Death March".

Posted via email from quirkeproperty's posterous

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