Seen & Heard: Hines nears €125m Tallaght Square deal

Blueface sale may see jobs go; Shannon pipeline delays threaten FDI, Ex-AIB chief in new role; Limerick restaurants out of examinership

Texas-based real-estate investment group Hines is closing in on the purchase of the Square shopping centre in Tallaght for about €125 million, half of the price paid for the complex four years ago, the Sunday Times reports.

Hines has been selected as preferred bidder by fellow US investment firm Oaktree Capital, which put the complex on the market with a price tag of between €160 million and €170 million.

Oaktree paid the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) €250 million in 2019 for 90 per cent of the centre, which has 130 retail units and a 13-screen cinema distributed across 53,000sq m (570,486sq ft) of space, along with planning permission to extend and a site potentially suitable for housing.

Retail property prices have come back sharply as a result of the pandemic’s effect on shopping habits and a spike in interest rates in the past two years.

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The Irish Times reported last month that the sale had been held up following an objection from one of scheme’s junior lenders, M&G Investments, about the level of discount being applied, as it would see its investment being wiped out.

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Blueface sale may lead to 100 job losses

The Sunday Times also reports that as many as 100 jobs may be lost at Blueface, the Irish cloud-based telecommunications group, as its owner Comcast moves to sell the business.

Blueface had about 124 employees in 2022, the newspaper said. Comcast, which owns Sky, NBC television and Xfinity broadband, bought Blueface in 2020, but is said to have decided to sell the company again after buying Masergy, a Texas-based cloud telecoms provider, since then.

FDI under threat amid delays to Shannon water pipeline

The Business Post reports that the State’s continued ability to secure foreign direct investment is “under threat” due to concerns over water shortages, as Uisce Éireann warns that delays to the key €1.6 billion Shannon pipeline will result in a “difficult decision”.

Uisce Éireann has said it may have to refuse connection requests in the future unless the 170km pipeline from the Shannon to Dublin is delivered within 10 years, the report said. The State-owned utility group has said it can meet the existing FDI projects in the coming years, but that the threat of water shortages will hit competitiveness.

Former AIB head Colm Doherty to take executive role at Actavo

Former managing director of AIB Colm Doherty, who led the lender between 2009 and 2010, is set to take on a top executive role at engineering services group Actavo, where he is chairman, after the departure of its chief executive, the Business Post also reports.

Brian Kelly had been chief executive of the Denis O’Brien-owned company for the past six years. Actavo was formerly known as Siteserv, which Mr O’Brien acquired in 2012 in a deal that involved IBRC writing down €119 million of company loans.

The newspaper speculates that the senior changes will prompt talk that Mr O’Brien is preparing to sell Actavo. It follows the businessman’s agreement last month to sell his majority-owned Beacon Hospital and his surrender in January of control of Digicel to a group of bondholders.

Cornstone and Coqbull restaurant group emerges from examinership

The Cornstore and Coqbull restaurants group, which operates a number of casual-dining restaurants in Limerick and Cork, has emerged from examinership in a move that will save about 200 jobs, the Sunday Independent reports.

An examiner was appointed to the business in November after the group’s main creditor, the Sweden-based Proventus Capital Partners III KB fund, appointed receivers over certain assets after the group failed to make a payment on demand on €29.7 million of debt.

London-based Padraic Frawley, founder and chief executive of the company, has been reinstated as a director after securing new investment, the report said. The investment came from Dublin-based Realm Finance, it added.

The report cites Mr Frawley as saying the hospitality sector had been through the “perfect storm”, including Brexit, Covid, wage inflation and staff shortages in recent years.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times