Johnny Ronan’s rivals for Irish Glass Bottle site circle as deal drags

Underbidders make contact with Nama as deadline for RGRE-Colony deal passes

Bidders that lost out to developer Johnny Ronan and US investment firm Colony Capital in the race to develop the former Irish Glass Bottle site in Dublin have signalled they remain interested in the project, as the original deadline for concluding a deal passed almost two weeks ago.

Nama selected Mr Ronan’s Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) and Colony in late July as preferred bidders for an 80 per cent stake in the 37-acre site, the largest vacant plot in the capital, and gave them 30 days to complete. That deadline passed on August 23rd.

Sources said discussions between Nama and the preferred bidders, who are understood to have pitched an offer of more than €160 million for the controlling stake, are continuing. Their bid was well in excess of the original guide price of €125 million that was attached to the site when Nama started to market the project in July 2019.

One potential reason for the delay is said to centre on the need for approval from the Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) for the deal. As of Thursday, the agency had not been notified of the planned transaction.


The other shortlisted bidders were: Sean Mulryan's Ballymore Group; Dallas-based private equity giant Lone Star's Quintain Ireland housebuilding unit; and Hines, a US real estate group.

Sources said underbidders had made both indirect and formal contact with Nama advisers to flag their continued interest in the site, which was once a symbol of Celtic Tiger hubris but is now earmarked to deliver more than 3,500 homes.

Representatives for Nama, RGRE, Ballymore, Quintain and Hines declined to comment.

Social and affordable housing

The land is held through a company called Pembroke Ventures. Some 10 per cent of the planned units would comprise social housing and a further 15 per cent affordable housing. The site also has scope for about 1 million sq ft of offices and shops, as well as a school site and public spaces, according to Nama.

Nama had receivers appointed to two separate parts of the 37-acre site between 2011 and 2012 as the respective owners ran into financial trouble.

A company called Becbay, backed by developer Bernard McNamara, property financier Derek Quinlan and State agency the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, owned the 25-acre glass bottle land at that time. Becbay acquired the holding in 2006 for €412 million in an Anglo Irish Bank-backed deal.

A company linked to boom-era developer Liam Carroll held the remaining 12 acres.

Separately, it emerged on Thursday that Diageo had selected Ballymore to develop part of the Guinness Brewery in Dublin as a new urban centre, beating interest from Hines and London-based U&I. The drinks giant announced plans in 2017 to redevelop 12 acres of its complex at St James's Gate in central Dublin for housing, offices, shops and businesses.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times