Analysis: a deal that was some time in the making

Real estate specialist Kennedy Wilson is hoping for a five-star return on its €110 million investment

It was some time in the making but ownership of the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, the city's most famous five-star inn, has finally transferred to Kennedy Wilson, the US-headquartered real estate specialist that has been hoovering up assets in Ireland in recent times.

A pre-pack receivership, executed by Ernst & Young overnight, was seen as the most efficient legal process to close out a deal that has been in the making for a number of months.

It closes out a near decade of ownership by a consortium of investors that included Bernard McNamara and Jerry O’Reilly. They are thought to have put the guts of €200 million into the Shelbourne in the boom times, restoring the grand old dame of Dublin hotels to its former glory.

The investors were ultimately credit crunched by the global financial crisis and the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank, which had provided the debt to the hotel.


Ironically, the hotel 's trading has continued to boom in spite of austerity pinching Irish pockets in recent years. It will accommodate around 130,000 visitors this year, of which about 70,000 are from the United States.

Occupancy is running at close to 90 per cent, which is about as high it can ever get given that Sunday nights are traditionally quiet for the hotel trade, and room rates are healthy.

Turnover this year will touch €30 million and its operating profit is expected to increase from last year’s level of €6.3 million.

The hotel’s management is working the angles to generate business. Such is the demand for afternoon tea, that a fourth sitting per day is being considered while a pre-theatre supper has been added to the menu and visitors who are up and out early in the morning can grab a coffee and pastry from the lobby to take out.

Kennedy Wilson is planning to invest some millions to further enhance the facilities. An upmarket hair and beauty salon will become a neighbour of the existing spa facilities, where a seventh treatment room is being added to cope with demand.

Its 19 suites and various public areas will also get a careful makeover. The 246 bedrooms are already being refurbished.

Kennedy Wilson has made a bold statement about its intentions in Ireland by acquiring a number of high-profile assets of late. On Thursday, it announced the purchase for a combined €120 million of loans associated with the builder P Elliott, and the Marshes Shopping Centre in Dundalk.

Checking in as owner of the Shelbourne - it paid about €110 million earlier this year to buy out the debts - is another statement of its intent and its confidence in the Irish economic recovery story. It’s no doubt hoping for a five-star return on its investment.