Ronan group seeks six months’ grace as receiver appointed

RGRE looks to refinance €142m worth of loans linked to portfolio of 12 properties

Developer Johnny Ronan’s Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) said it is looking for six months’ grace to refinance €142 million of loans attached to 12 properties, after receivers were appointed last week over the assets.

Grant Thornton was appointed as receiver over the properties by UK-based M&G Investments. The loans, which were due to be repaid at the end of January, stem from the investment group’s backing of RGRE’s refinancing of Nama loans in 2015, which allowed the developer to exit Nama.

The appointment of receivers was first reported by the Business Post, which cited a spokesman for RGRE as saying that the company was in “fairly advanced discussions with a bank and an equity provider to repay M&G in full”.

Responding to questions from The Irish Times, a spokesman said: “RGRE continues to liaise with the parties involved to explore the extension of payment arrangements over the next six months to allow sufficient time for a successful refinance of the loan, and we have had a number of productive discussions to that end.”


Paris mansion

A spokeswoman for M&G declined to comment. The portfolio includes office building Connaught House on Burlington Road in Dublin 4, a stake in a nearby Percy Place property that is majority-owned by a Davy property fund, the Bewley’s Café property on Grafton Street, and a mansion in Paris.

The appointment of Grant Thornton partner Michael McAteer as receiver has prompted a number of property agents to swarm the portfolio offering to advise on a valuation and sale strategy, according to sources.

Property industry sources said it would take at least six to eight weeks to carry out the necessary due diligence on the portfolio, ahead of it being put on the market, either as a single lot or in parts. A refinancing and repayment to M&G during the receivership would end any sales process. Representatives for Grant Thornton declined to comment.

“All other parts of RGRE’s business, including the development of the new Facebook and Salesforce HQs and the ongoing developments at Tara Street and the Glass Bottle site, are unaffected by this development and continue business as usual,” the RGRE spokesman said.

Nama exit

It is understood that New York-based Fortress Investment Group is a junior lender to the 12-property portfolio. That company inherited exposure to a number of RGRE properties and developments when it took over the real-estate assets of US-based DigitalBridge, formerly known as Colony Capital, last year.

Colony had part-funded the developer’s exit from Nama and had heavily backed his projects in the years that followed. A spokesman for Fortress did not respond to a request for comment.

RGRE secured two injunctions late last year that essentially restrained DigitalBridge from selling its stakes in three high-profile Dublin developments to Fortress.

The three joint venture projects included the Waterfront South Central residential and office project in Dublin’s docklands; Facebook’s new European headquarters in Ballsbridge; and the Spencer Place development in the docklands that includes a headquarters tower for tech firm Salesforce and a luxury hotel, the Samuel, to be operated by the Dalata Group.

However, the dispute has since been resolved, with RGRE and Fortress agreeing in recent months to put their respective stakes in the three properties up for sale.

The Irish Times reported last month that Cushman & Wakefield, Knight Frank and CBRE have been hired to act as joint agents with Eastdil Secured on the projects, which together could command a figure in excess of €1.3 billion.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times