Friday 19 January 2018

Well-known Celtic Tiger financier Quinlan eyes dramatic return to European property market

Property financier Derek Quinlan. Photo: David Conachy
Property financier Derek Quinlan. Photo: David Conachy
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

One of the biggest names from the Celtic Tiger era, financier Derek Quinlan, is on the cusp of making a dramatic return to the European property market after assembling a consortium to buy an office tower in Brussels in a €1.2bn deal.

Mr Quinlan and Quinlan Real Estate are acting as the lead adviser to a group of European property investors which is currently under offer to acquire the Finance Tower in the Belgian capital from Dutch company Breevat, according to a report carried by 'EuroProperty'.

Should the financier and the consortium manage to ­secure the deal to buy the 31-storey (200,000sqm) building, it would represent the largest single real estate transaction by value in Belgian history, and the second largest single-asset deal in Europe to have taken place in the current property market cycle after the sale of Coeur Défense in Paris.

'EuroProperty' reports that there is no certainty that a transaction will be finalised, but says that the parties involved are working towards a close in the next few weeks.

Leading international real estate agents CBRE is said to be advising Breevast.

Mr Quinlan is understood not to have an equity stake in the potential deal. It would, however, still represent an incredible turnaround in his fortunes following the crash, and the transfer of his various companies' borrowings on to the books of Nama should the transaction be completed.

For while the financier's principal boom era operation, Quinlan Private, and its associated entities had some €11bn in assets under management at their peak, the onset of the global economic crisis in 2007 and the subsequent implosion in property markets here and internationally saw him enter Nama in 2010 as one of its most-indebted borrowers.

Read More: Investor's Midas touch deserted him in meltdown

Coupled with his involvement in an array of investment partnerships, Mr Quinlan's borrowings were reported to be in the region of €3.5bn before he embarked on an ­aggressive round of asset disposals aimed at paying down his debts to Nama and his other bank ­creditors.

Included in those sales were the financier's ­disposal of his stake in Maybourne ­Hotel Group, which owns London's world-famous Claridge's, ­Berkeley and Connaught Hotels; the Knightsbridge estate, and the Citigroup skyscraper.

Mr Quinlan's bid to acquire the Finance Tower in Brussels on behalf of investors mirrors the type of asset and strategy he followed during the previous boom.

The building is leased to the Belgian Finance Ministry until 2031 on a lease with fixed uplifts, with rental payments last year of €54m.

Commenting on the potential deal to 'EuroProperty', a spokesman for Breevast said: "Due to the current market circumstances Breevast is approached on a regular basis to assess whether it is interested in disposing of more of its core assets. In relation to the Finance Tower, Breevast and its shareholder are currently exploring several strategic possibilities."

Contacted by the Irish ­Independent, a spokesman for Mr Quinlan declined to ­comment on the matter.

Irish Independent

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