Sunday 24 September 2017

Nama to sell off €300m worth of O'Callaghan loans

Cork based property developer Owen O'Callaghan. Photo: Tom Burke
Cork based property developer Owen O'Callaghan. Photo: Tom Burke
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

NAMA has put a block of loans linked to Cork developer and Mahon Tribunal witness Owen O'Callaghan up for sale.

The loans are linked to Cork commercial and retail units including the Mahon Retail Park in Mallow, a feted retail precinct at Opera Lane in Cork and properties at Half Moon Street.

The loans have an approximate value of €300m, it is understood. They are performing, with 95pc of the underlying properties rented out to tenants.

Nama is speeding up the sale of its remaining loans and assets, insiders say. Most should be sold before the next general election.

Also coming up for sale in the next six months are loans linked to highly valuable Dundrum Town Centre and a group of loans linked to central Dublin office space, thought to be worth around €1.1bn.

Only a portion of loans linked to O'Callaghan Properties entered Nama.

Owen O'Callaghan was one of boom-time Ireland's most prolific retail park developers.

His company, O'Callaghan Properties, built Cork's Merchant's Quay Shopping Centre, Dublin's Liffey Valley Shopping Centre and Athlone's Golden Island development.

It recently lost out on a major regeneration contract for Cork to Heineken Ireland/Bam, which is building a €50m event space at the historic Beamish & Crawford site on Cork's South Main Street.

The developer is well-known for his involvement in the Mahon Tribunal, which found that made large payments to disgraced lobbyist Frank Dunlop in a bid for the support of politicians for the rezoning of land at Quarryvale, now called Liffey Valley.

O'Callaghan rejected the findings but the High Court threw out his application to have them set aside in 2012.

In a statement the developer said he views Nama's decision to put the loan portfolio on the market "very positively."

"These loans have always been and are fully performing and the suite of assets covered by the loans which are now for sale are amongst the best performing retail and commercial assets in the country.

"We had no discretion in this matter because of legislation enacted following the collapse of the Irish banks which meant that all commercial development loans relating to these banks now reside in Nama.

"The reality for businesses like ours and for many other businesses is that we have been effectively operating without Irish banks for several years since their collapse. That has been a huge inhibition on business development.

"The sale of these loans now means that there will be new sources of investment for our companies and we look forward to working with our new investors to maximise the commercial value of the assets in question."

"We expect a lot of interest in this portfolio as the loans relate to premium assets in outstanding locations. O'Callaghan Properties continued to develop many of these assets even during the economic crisis, and successfully brought them to completion.

"The 95pc occupancy rate across the portfolio is a testament to the assets' quality and location. The arrival of new investors will not only be good for our business but will be good for Cork Inc. and the other locations we operate in, and will facilitate further growth in key development projects we have planned."

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