O’Reilly seeks €34m for Mediahuis Dublin headquarters

Chartered Land chief acquired Independent House and apartments for €24.3m in 2018

Having seen the unwelcome arrival of Covid-19 frustrate his company's efforts to find a buyer for Independent House two years ago, developer Joe O'Reilly will be hoping that the ongoing easing of public-health restrictions and a recent regearing of the building's lease will attract investors in their numbers this time around. The property, which serves as the Dublin headquarters of Mediahuis Ireland Ltd, the publisher of various newspaper titles including the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent and independent.ie, is being offered for sale on this occasion at a guide price of €34 million.

A disposal of the property at or above that level would deliver a significant return for O'Reilly's Chartered Land on its original investment. The developer acquired the Talbot Street building and 10 of the 11 units in the adjoining Brett Court apartment block for €24.3 million in late 2018. While the portfolio's potential value was firmly evidenced just over 18 months later with agent Knight Frank offering Independent House to the market on its own for €29 million, the onset of the pandemic and the then-existential question that posed for the future of the traditional office model put paid to that plan.

Roll forward to today, however, and Ross Fogarty of the same selling agent says the sale of the property presents "an entirely transformed investment prospect" thanks to the recent regearing of the lease with Mediahuis Ireland and its Belgian parent as guarantor along with a significant building fabric upgrade.

Located at the corner of Talbot Street and James Joyce Street in Dublin city centre, Independent House briefly comprises a modern, mixed-use building incorporating four floors of grade-A office accommodation over retail at ground floor. It extends to a net internal floor area of 5,123.69sq m ( 55,151sq ft) in total. The fourth and fifth floors also feature communal south-facing balconies and terraces overlooking the city.

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Mediahuis Ireland Limited has committed to a new 10-year term extension from January 1st, 2022, at a revised increased rent of €1,666,592 per annum. There is a full lease guarantee from its Belgian parent and rent reviews will be CPI-linked, providing investors with income-stream certainty. Twenty-six secure basement car spaces, accessed off Foley Street, are included in the Mediahuis lease.

Mediahuis Ireland Limited (formerly Independent News & Media) is a subsidiary of Mediahuis Group which bought INM for €145.6 million in 2019. There is a full parent guarantee in place on Independent House. Mediahuis the Belgian parent was established in 1989 with a tangible net worth of more than €247 million as of December 31st, 2020. It has a D&B financial strength rating of 5A and a D&B Risk indicator of 1 – Minimum Risk. Mediahuis's consolidated turnover in 2020 was €990.5 million, generating earnings before tax, interest and write-offs of €171.5 million, an operating profit of €121.9 million and a net profit of €58.6 million.

Upgrade

As part of the Mediahuis lease regear its office space at Independent House, totalling 4,173.03sq m over five floors, is to receive significant landlord and tenant capital investment. A €4 million programme of upgrade works is currently being undertaken by the company. This includes the installation of new air conditioning throughout, the upgrade of the main office reception area, lift-car upgrades, distribution board upgrade, new boilers and flue ducting, bathroom upgrades on all floors, LED lighting upgrades, core area redecoration and roof/terrace refurbishment works.

The retail space at ground-floor level extends to 896.43sq m and is occupied by SuperValu on 25-year FRI (full repairing and insuring) lease from December 2004. There is ancillary storage in the basement of 54.23sq m.

SuperValu is part of the Musgrave Group, Ireland's largest grocery and food distributor with 223 stores across the country. Established more than 30 years ago, the company currently holds 21.7 per cent of grocery market share in Ireland. The Kane McCartney group, which operates the Talbot Street site, has numerous other SuperValu stores across Dublin including in Donabate, Killester and Raheny.

Based on its guide price of €34 million, the revised combined rent roll of €1,941,592 per annum at Independent House offers the prospective purchaser a net initial yield of 5.2 per cent.

Further information is available from Ross Fogarty at Knight Frank or from independenthousedublin.com

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan is Acting Property Editor of The Irish Times