Business Irish

Monday 25 September 2017

What is Kennedy Wilson -- the US company spending millions here?

US-based Kennedy Wilson has become one of the most high-profile, and prolific, investors in Ireland over the past three years.

The US company is based in Beverly Hills, California, and was unknown here before the bust.

That all changed in 2011 when Kennedy Wilson bought Bank of Ireland's property asset management unit and then played a pivotal role in putting together the consortium, including investors Wilbur Ross and Prem Watsa, that bought a 35pc stake in Bank of Ireland for €1.1bn -- in a deal that saved the lender from being nationalised.

The firm has links to the Kennedy political dynasty in the US, but its interest here is all business.

Having been one of the early movers to buy distressed assets in Ireland after the crash, it is now a major force in the property market, linked as a bidder or potential bidder in almost every sale of prime property assets, especially in Dublin.

Kennedy Wilson frequently partners with other funds to snap up its assets, which now include modern blocks containing hundreds of apartments as well as dozens of commercial properties.

Last year alone Kennedy Wilson bought a slew of Ireland's best commercial property, partnering with Varde in a successful €306m takeover of Treasury Holdings' former "Opera" Castle Market Holdings portfolio of offices and shopping centres.

It also spent €80m buying apartment blocks at Clancy Barracks in Dublin. It already owned the Alliance Building, a swish apartment block built in a former gas works in Dublin 4.

The deal to buy loans backed by the Shelbourne Hotel building show Kennedy Wilson's appetite for high-profile, high-end Irish assets is undiminished even as asset prices rise from the post-crash low.

DONAL O'DONOVAN

Irish Independent

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