Saturday 24 March 2018

Kennedy Wilson eyes move into housing market

Photo: PA
Photo: PA
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

The Government's ambition to deliver 25,000 new homes a year by 2020 has received a potential boost with the ceo of US real estate giant Kennedy Wilson, Bill McMorrow, revealing that his company is in the "very early stages" of considering whether to expand its existing business from renting homes to building homes to sell.

"We're looking at how we might get involved in housebuilding here. So we are in the very early stages of looking at whether we should start building houses," Mr McMorrow told the 'Financial Times'.

"We want to figure out how we can be part of the solution [to Ireland's housing crisis] but you have to do your homework on these things first," he added.

While Mr McMorrow said the Irish housing market was similar to that of the US, he said Kennedy Wilson would only look to replicate its American model if the plan made financial sense.

The Irish Independent understands Mr McMorrow made his remarks on Kennedy Wilson's possible entry into the Irish house sales market in the course of a recent visit to Dublin for a meeting of the company's board.

Asked if Mr McMorrow had met with Finance Minister Michael Noonan while in Dublin, a spokesman for the Department of Finance said no meeting had taken place, while noting that Kennedy Wilson had been a "positive investor in Ireland in recent years".

The president and ceo of Kennedy Wilson Europe, Mary Ricks, recently confirmed the company's interest in expanding its Irish property portfolio through the acquisition of assets from international private equity looking to cash-in on investments they made in Ireland during the financial crisis.

While the KWE chief acknowledged her company was an "opportunistic investor" which had timed the Irish market well when it began acquiring assets here in 2011, she stressed that Kennedy Wilson were "long-term real estate operators". This, she noted, made the company "quite different" to the private equity firms which typically hold assets for a limited period before selling them on again.

"There are always opportunities from people selling whether it's private equity or a bank or whoever," Ms Ricks told the 'Sunday Independent' following the publication of KWE's half-year results, which showed a 5pc rise in net asset value as the valuation of its assets exceeded £3bn (€3.54bn).

Irish Independent

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