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Arnotts is sold for €100m as Dundrum deal nears


Arnotts staff prepare for the St Stephen’s Day sale in December

Arnotts staff prepare for the St Stephen’s Day sale in December

Arnotts staff prepare for the St Stephen’s Day sale in December

Businessman Noel Smyth has won the race for Arnotts store in a deal thought to be worth more than €100m.

Mr Smyth's Fitzwilliam Finance Partners owned half of Arnotts, with the other half owned by private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

Both sides had been vying to buy the other out, but in a statement last night Fitzwilliam confirmed it had taken full control of the business.

Fitzwilliam said it would "continue with our plans to develop Arnotts as an iconic retail destination and look for opportunities to develop the adjacent property portfolio surrounding the store as market conditions continue to improve".

The deal brings to an end a battle that has gone on for several years. Mr Smyth is backed by the UK-based billionaire Livingstone brothers through their firm, London & Regional.

The brothers are familiar with the Irish market. Earlier this year they sold the Intercontinental Hotel in Ballsbridge for €50m after buying it for €15m.

Fitzwilliam paid Ulster Bank about €50m for half of Arnotts' debt in 2013. The other half was taken over by Apollo from Anglo Irish Bank.

The two sides are both thought to have been keen on taking full control of the business - but now it appears Apollo has agreed to sell their portion of the business.

A spokesman for Apollo said they believed "this is a positive outcome for all stakeholders in Arnotts, which should allow for a reduction in the company's existing debt burden and further investment and growth".

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, however industry watchers believe Apollo would have been unlikely to sell its stake for less than €100m.

That would see the US firm make a profit on their investment of around €55m in less than three years.

News of the Arnotts deal comes as the sale of Dundrum Town Centre moved a step closer, with loans tied to the centre and other properties to be put on the market next month.

US property firm Eastdil Secured is expected to launch Project Jewel, as the portfolio is codenamed, within a fortnight.

The portfolio includes the loans backed by the Dundrum Town Centre - which are expected to fetch more than €1bn on their own - as well as a 50pc stake in the Ilac Centre in Dublin and a similar holding in the Pavilions in Swords.

The €1.5bn portfolio also includes a site adjacent to the Dundrum centre and one close to the Ilac Centre in the centre of the city. That site had been earmarked for a large retail development anchored by John Lewis, but that plan collapsed after the economic crash.

The portfolio is expected to sell to an international investor, with numerous parties already reported to have shown interest the bidding process is likely to take sometime however.

A previous valuation of the 150,000 sq ft mall had pegged its worth at closer to €700m prior to a recovery in the market. The shopping centre's tenants generate a retail income of €50m a year, meaning its new owners can expect a return of around 5pc a year.

Irish Independent