Investing in property

Mon, Jul 1, 2013, 05:00

The Irish Stock Exchange has had little to cheer about since the financial crisis began in 2008. A depressed equity market and sharply reduced turnover has seen many of Ireland’s top companies quit the exchange. In recent years, CRH has moved its main listing to London, while Elan has departed to New York. Others - Greencore, United Drug and DCC - have relocated to London. A stock exchange exists to enable companies raise money, by selling their shares to the public, in order to develop their businesses. But with so many companies leaving and - until this week - none choosing to list in Dublin and raise capital for investment, the exchange seemed set in terminal decline.

However, the decision by an Irish property investment company, Green Reit, to seek a listing in Dublin and London, represents a significant and welcome change on two counts. It will be the first stock exchange listing in many years in Dublin. And, it will also be the first use in Ireland of real estate investment trusts (REITs) for property investment. REITs, a familiar investment vehicle in most developed economies, offer institutions and smaller investors a tax efficient means of investing in property. Investors buy shares in the REIT: a listed public company that buys commercial properties, and secures tax exemption for its property income so long as it distributes some 85 per cent of that income to shareholders. Shareholders benefit from dividend growth and from capital appreciation of the property assets, with a diversified portfolio helping to reduce investment risk.

There could hardly be a better time for such an investment vehicle. A depressed property market may well be set to recover, thereby appealing to investors attracted by the potential financial upside the sector offers. Equally, a property market in which one State institution, the National Asset Management Agency, is so totally dominant, is also one that needs a strong Irish REITs industry to develop in order to provide greater stability to that market.

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