Just who is buying up Dublin?
Foreign buyers scramble to snap up prime assets in the capital
Hunt expects change on this front later in the year. Brendan McDonagh, Nama’s chief executive, also indicated as such in a presentation to Property Industry Ireland last month.
“It would have made no sense to have saturated the market, [but] we are not warehousing properties,” he said. “As the economy picks up and finance becomes available we will increase the flow of property to the market.”
The Central Park portfolio in Leopardstown, which could fetch €200 million, is rumoured to be up for sale in the autumn, while Danske bank is also thought to be readying assets for the market. On past form, Kennedy Wilson will among the favourites to snap them up. If there has been a feeding frenzy, the American investor has gorged on the lion’s share.
Former Bank of Ireland executive Peter Collins heads up Kennedy Wilson’s European office in Dublin. It has focused mainly on office blocks and residential developments. Its quarry has included KPMG’s Stephen’s Green base, State Street’s European headquarters, and a sprawling apartment development in the old Clancy barracks on the Liffey. Its Dublin property spree has topped €500 million so far.
London & Regional, run by two reclusive British brothers, is rumoured to have been underbidder to Kennedy Wilson on a number of deals. It has also managed to bag its own pair of sought-after properties, spending a combined €35 million on Eircom’s Citywest building and the Four Seasons hotel in Ballsbridge.
Northwood Investors, an American firm, was also pipped by Kennedy Wilson to the Opera portfolio. It is thought to have bid higher than the victor, but the vendors went for Kennedy. Northwood remains active, however, and paid €27 million for the Grand Canal-side headquarters of Bord Gáis.
Blackstone, the big daddy of US investment firms, has run the rule over a cacophony of Irish asset. It has so far only snapped up the Burlington hotel, however, for which it paid €67 million. It will spend a further €15 million renovating the property.
Splash of colour
Another investment firm to have targeted the Dublin market is King Street Capital, which paid €65 million for the Bernard McNamara-developed Bishop’s Square complex, housing News International and a number of government agencies and departments. The development, built in the late 1990s, weakened the power of the bricklayers’ unions by being the first to use cheaper fake-brick cladding on the front of the building.
German funds, characteristically flying below the radar, have also been extremely active and have snaffled about 10 per cent of the Dublin investment market in recent times. GLL paid about €40 million for 102-104 Grafton Street, home to River Island and Wallis, while AM Alpha paid €35 million for the Riverside II building on the docks.