Tuesday 21 November 2017

RTE 'sitting' on potential €220m cash pile in Dublin 4

RTE expects to raise over €75m through the sale of 8.64 acres of its 32.12-acre Montrose campus
RTE expects to raise over €75m through the sale of 8.64 acres of its 32.12-acre Montrose campus
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

RTE is sitting on an estimated cash pile of over €220m, which it could realise immediately by relocating from its Montrose campus and selling it in its entirety.

But management at the State broadcaster made a decision in 2015 that its operations would remain based in Donnybrook, on lands that are almost universally acknowledged by property industry professionals as among the most valuable in the State.

While agents Savills formally placed 8.64 acres of RTE's Montrose campus on the market yesterday at a guide price of €75m, the Irish Independent understands that the most lucrative option of selling all 32.12 acres occupied by the broadcaster was specifically excluded from considerations RTE gave to the disposal of its lands in late 2015. Referring to the broadcaster's seeming refusal to countenance the prospect of moving from its Dublin 4 base, a source familiar with the matter cited the "serious difficulties" the relocation of RTE's TV studios would present.

That argument was dismissed by a number of figures within the property industry, with suggestions that RTE should consider relocating to an alternative and less costly site either within the capital or on its periphery. While one source referred to the example set by TV3 in locating its studios at Westgate Business Park in Ballymount next to the M50 motorway, another source suggested that RTE might consider the role it could play in the regeneration of Dublin's north inner city by relocating to a site there.

The 8.64-acre site now being sold as part of the 'Project Montrose' process is expected to attract a wide array of bidders from both Ireland and abroad. Among the Irish developers expected to run the rule over the lands, which director at Savills Ireland Mark Reynolds described as a "once-in-a- generation opportunity" are: Cairn Homes, Sean Mulryan's Ballymore Group, Johnny Ronan's RGRE (Ronan Group Real Estate), Michael O'Flynn's O'Flynn Group, Joe O'Reilly's Chartered Land, Michael Cotter's Park Developments, Davy Hickey Properties, I-Res REIT, and property investor Paddy McKillen.

Potential international interest in buying the site or providing the funding for its acquistion by an Irish developer is expected to come from players such as Colony Capital, Kennedy Wilson and Hines - all three of which have invested heavily in Irish property in the years since the crash.

The RTE site is being sold with a detailed feasibility study for a high-quality housing scheme, designed by leading architecture practice O'Mahony Pike Architects. According to it, the lands have the capacity to accommodate up to 500 units comprising a mix of up to 20 high-value houses and approximately 500 apartments, subject to the necessary planning permission being obtained.

Commenting on the prospects for the site, Mark Reynolds said: "The pent-up demand from buyers and renters for quality apartments in prime locations in Dublin 4, coupled with the backdrop of limited competing supply, will ensure a successful sales campaign for the scheme when completed."

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