Commercial property investors ‘handing back the keys’ to office properties

Seen & Heard: RTÉ core mission, ‘raft’ of new tech laws, Equinix investment plans and compensation for advice from Co Offaly firm

Investors have started handing back the keys to their office properties amid a burgeoning crisis in Ireland’s €50 billion commercial property market, the Business Post reports. Owners have begun surrendering properties to lenders in a sign of acute stresses in the market.

James Anderson, a partner in Deloitte Ireland and a member of its restructuring division, has told the newspaper that a number of non-bank lenders operating in the Irish market — typically investment funds and other financial entities — have also moved to seize control of commercial property assets in recent weeks.

He said investors were defaulting on loans due to a combination of factors, including “severe breaches” of banking covenants as valuations fall and revenue streams dry up due to properties lying vacant.

Further downward pressure on asset valuations is expected over the coming months.


RTÉ needs to decide its ‘core mission’

The “backstage saga more compelling than any drama RTÉ has screened” is in danger of being “mistaken for the big picture”, Niamh Smyth, the Fianna Fáil TD who chairs the Oireachtas media committee, writes in the Sunday Times.

“I believe in a strong RTÉ not out of nostalgia but out of concern for the future,” Ms Smyth writes in an opinion article for the newspaper.

“As part of its strategic review, RTÉ must decide what its core mission is as the need for an effective, respected RTÉ is greater than ever and the strength of our democracy depends on it. We must ensure that public money is used for public service broadcasting only,” the committee chairman states.

Ms Smyth notes that the broadcaster has not previously been required to account separately for public money from the licence fee and that it generates from commercial income.

UK compensation for customers of Offaly-based advisory company

The UK Financial Services Compensation Fund is set to pay out millions to customers of an Irish financial services company that allegedly gave “bad advice” around the transferring of pension benefits, the Sunday Independent reports.

The body has so far upheld 110 claims for compensation worth a combined £6.3 million (€7.3 million) against Wellington Court Financial Services, an Offaly-based firm.

An additional 157 claims are still being processed, meaning the final compensation payout could be much higher. Many of the claims are in relation to a fall in the value of pension funds after these were moved from relatively secure arrangements, such as defined-benefit schemes, to a self-invested personal pension.

Some Wellington Court clients were advised to invest in pension funds containing “high-risk, non-standard investments”, UK authorities found.

Tech plea for time on new legislation

Tech firms operating in Ireland are asking for time to assess the impact of a “raft” of new EU and Irish laws impacting on their businesses, an industry figure has told the Business Post.

Una Fitzpatrick, director of Technology Ireland, said companies needed greater guidance to deal with a slew of new pieces of legislation at a European level covering the tech sector.

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These new laws include the forthcoming AI (artificial intelligence) Act, the Digital Markets Act, and the Digital Services Act.

Companies have to carry out a full review of their systems to ensure they are complying with each new piece of legislation, she said: “That takes time, it takes resources … You’ve got a lot of new pieces of legislation at an Irish and EU level, and we’ve really got to see how those all work together.”

Equinix plans data centre investment

Data centre group Equinix is preparing to invest about €160 million more in the Irish economy as soon as it can secure a connection to the power grid, the Sunday Independent reported.

The company, listed on Nasdaq with a market capitalisation of $70 billion (€66 billion), said it has invested more than $500 million in Ireland. This will include its DB6x facility in Dublin, which is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2023 and support 10 MW of IT capacity at a cost of $83 million.

In August, Equinix suffered a setback when South Dublin County Council refused planning permission for a data centre in Clondalkin. The refusal was partly linked to its ability to secure a grid connection with EirGrid. The company appealed the decision.