Property developer owned by Sean Dunne’s son goes into examinership

Collapse of builder Blacklough involved in Celbridge social housing project created funding issues for two Steven Dunne-owned Aterna businesses

Two companies owned by Steven Dunne, the son of former property baron Sean Dunne, are unable currently to pay their debts, a judge was told. Photograph: iStock

Two companies owned by Steven Dunne, the son of former property baron Sean Dunne, are unable currently to pay their debts, a judge was told on Monday.

Barrister Ross Gorman told Judge John O’Connor in the Circuit Civil Court that Mr Dunne was seeking the appointment of an interim examiner to property development and construction company Aterna Developments and related firm Aterna Lee on the application of the latter company.

The judge appointed chartered accountant and insolvency expert Kieran Wallace, managing director of Interpath Advisory Dublin, as interim examiner to both companies. Mr Wallace was represented in court by solicitor Graham Kenny.

Mr Gorman, who appeared with Crowley Millar Solicitors, for the companies whose director is Steven Dunne, of Waverley Lodge, Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, Dublin, said both companies had a reasonable prospect of survival under examinership.

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An expert report provided to the court by Joseph Walsh of JW Accountants stated that Mr Dunne had extensive experience in the construction sector, including the successful completion of a number of housing projects.

He said the main project undertaken by Aterna Developments was a Celbridge development of 75 houses and apartments to provide critically needed social housing for Kildare County Council, which would lease the completed homes.

Castlehaven, a specialist property development funder, had undertaken part-funding of the project but Castlehaven’s loan had been refinanced and it was no longer a creditor of the companies.

Mr Walsh said the Celbridge project had been split into two phases, firstly the building of 29 houses and then the build of another 22 houses with 24 apartments and duplexes. Blacklough Construction had been appointed to complete the works but was placed into liquidation earlier this year, one of the key issues faced by Aterna Developments.

Mr Gorman, quoting from the expert report, said Kildare County Council received approval from the Department of Housing to enter long-term leases for the 75 units – €11.5 million for phase one and just under €16.4 million for phase two. Phase one had been completed and preliminary works had been carried out on phase two.

He said Aterna Developments had not been in a position to meet its loan liabilities by the agreed date of March 31st last. Aterna Developments had only one employee but had employed up to 50 subcontractors in recent times, providing significant local employment. The secured loan creditor had put a final settlement date of June 30th, 2023.

Mr Gorman said phase one was practically completed and there was a contract in place for the sale of phase one. A period of protection by the court under examinership would be likely to allow for any remaining issues in relation to phase one to be resolved and this would enable Aterna Developments to discharge its debt to the secured creditor.

He said there was now a contract in place with Manor Mill Developments for the purchase of phase two and Manor Mill Developments would complete the works required by Kildare County Council. In the circumstances, Mr Walsh believed Aterna Developments had a reasonable prospect of survival.

The matter was returned until July 20th.