Sunday 19 February 2017

Firm behind €100m Cork project in receivership

Published 20/10/2016 | 02:30

The portfolio included about 1,300 borrower groups, and over 6,200 loans with 5,400 properties
The portfolio included about 1,300 borrower groups, and over 6,200 loans with 5,400 properties

An Irish unit of US fund giant Cerberus has appointed a receiver to a company that planned a €100m redevelopment of an iconic industrial site in Cork.

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Rothbury Estates had intended to develop a huge scheme at the former Sunbeam business park in Blackpool in the city.

It would have included a mixed-use retail and office scheme, as well as a new pedestrian bridge.

The site of the Reffond textile factory, the Sunbeam complex was accidentally destroyed by fire in 2003.

Adjoining businesses were also gutted in the biggest fire in Cork in three decades.

Rothbury initially planned to build an 18-storey office block, as well as 260 apartments.

Rothbury Estates is owned by local businessman Martin Buckley and his wife. He also co-owned the textile business.

But Promontoria (Aran) has just had a receiver appointed to Rothbury Estates.

Promontoria (Aran), owned by Cerberus, was the winning bidder for £4.8bn of loans that were sold by Ulster Bank in 2014.

Those loans had a carrying value of about £1bn when they were offloaded.

The portfolio included about 1,300 borrower groups, and over 6,200 loans with 5,400 properties. More than three-quarters of the portfolio was secured against Irish assets, and a chunk of the remainder in Northern Ireland.

When they were acquired, over 90pc of the loans were in default. Cerberus saw off competition from US firms LoneStar and CarVal for the Aran loans.

New company filings show that Promontoria (Aran) had a receiver appointed to Rothbury Estates within the past three weeks.

The receiver is Paul McCleary of Grant Thornton.

The latest set of publicly-available accounts for Rothbury Estates - for the 2015 financial year - maintain that the firm's immediate parent firm is Rothbury Trust.

However, Rothbury Trust had been dissolved in 2009.

The Rothbury Estates accounts show that it had a deficiency of assets totalling €544,000 at the end of June last year, and that it was dependent on the continuing support of its lenders for its ongoing ability to meet its obligations.

Although Cork City Council approved the Sunbeam redevelopment plan in 2009, it was referred to An Bord Pleanála.

The planning watchdog then approved the scheme in 2010.

The developers said at the time that the project would result in significant economic, employment and social gains for Cork.

It was hoped that financial and technology firms would have been particularly interested in the office space.

The developers said that they already had potential tenants interested in the scheme and expected to quickly go to tender on the project.

But the plans came as the economy was collapsing and the country was bailed out.

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