Three players vie for €100m Danske Bank portfolio

Noel Smyth’s Fitzwilliam, Ires Reit and Kennedy Wilson in final round to buy 680 properties

Solicitor and property player Noel Smyth controls Fitzwilliam Real Estate Capital. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Solicitor and property player Noel Smyth controls Fitzwilliam Real Estate Capital. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Fri, Apr 18, 2014, 01:00

Noel Smyth’s Fitzwilliam is taking on Ires Reit and a syndicate comprising Kennedy Wilson, Deutsche Bank and Oak Tree Capital in the final leg of a race to acquire a portfolio of 680 bought-to-let residential properties from Danske Bank valued at some €100 million.

The Copenhagen-based institution put the assets, collectively dubbed Project Circle, on the block last month as part of its proposed sell-off of the personal and small business banking activities that it is winding up in the Republic.

A short-list of bidders for the portfolio emerged yesterday. It included Fitzwilliam Real Estate Capital, which is controlled by solicitor and property player Noel Smyth.

Sister company
The real estate business is a sister company of Fitzwilliam Finance Partners, which last year joined forces with Selfridges to buy 50 per cent of Arnotts store in Dublin through a purchase of €140 million worth of loans to the retailer from Ulster Bank.

Another player in the race for Project Circle is understood to be Ires Reit, the newly-floated real estate investment trust whose main backer is Canadian company Cap Reit and whose shareholders include Irish Life Assurance.

The third runner is a three-way partnership comprised of US investor Kennedy Wilson, Deutsche Bank and private equity group Oak Tree Capital, all of which have been active in buying and bidding for assets in the Irish property market since last year.

It is believed that all those in the final round have tabled initial bids for Project Circle in excess of €100 million.

The last stage of the competition is likely to play out over the next three to four weeks.

Project Circle is made up of individual properties repossessed from buy-to-let investors.

Around 60 per cent of them are in the greater Dublin area, with the rest in other urban centres around the State.

Danske entered the Irish market in 2005 when it bought National Irish Bank in the Republic and Northern Bank in the North.

It announced in October that it was pulling out of personal and small business lending, and would sell the various assets associated with these activities by the end of this year. Those assets include around 5,000 residential properties.