Sunday 22 April 2018

BoSI's ex-boss and UK firm in ambitious shopping centre plan

Pratt left bank after €7bn losses in boom years

Maurice Pratt. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Maurice Pratt. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Sarah McCabe & Nick Webb

FORMER Bank of Scotland (Ireland) chairman Maurice Pratt has teamed up with a major British property developer in an ambitious plan to buy or develop shopping centres in Ireland.

Pratt, who stepped down as chairman in 2010 after the bank's binge on property lending saw it rack up close to €7bn in losses, has joined the board of Shearer Property Group's newly created Irish operation.

Shearer has been developing shopping centres in the UK since 1995, often in partnership with other developers or local authorities. The company was founded in 1995 by two Englishmen, former commercial property agent Guy Shearer and former Savills surveyor Adam Markwell.

Previous projects include the redevelopment of the 600,000sq.ft Southgate Shopping Centre in Bath and Cambridge's Grand Arcade shopping complex, and the purchase and development of a former House of Fraser at London's Regent's Park, which was sold in 2010 for £220m (€270m).

Shearer Property Ireland will be based in Dublin and headed up by Alan Hegarty, the son-in-law of developer Liam Maye, who died in 2008.

Hegarty is also a former associate of another well-known developer, Sean Mulryan, and recently stepped down from three companies associated with Mulryan's White Water Shopping Centre in Newbridge.

Shearer comes to the Irish market at a time of unprecedented activity and a slow but clearly evident turnaround for the Irish shopping centre market. A host of property-related loans taken over by Nama are about to be put up for sale as it pushes to divest its remaining loan assets, including loans associated with Dundrum Shopping Centre.

Last month, it put a portfolio of retail loans codenamed Acorn up for sale with a guide price of €130m; this includes loans relating to Blackpool Shopping Centre and Blackpool Retail Park in Cork, Millfield Shopping Centre in Balbriggan, Dublin and The Showgrounds Shopping Centre in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

Meanwhile, Dublin retail complex Liffey Valley sold in February for around €250m.

Pratt's experience at Bank of Scotland (Ireland), which helped supercharge the property market during the boom through a huge expansion of its loan book, will be of interest to his new employers.

Bank of Scotland (Ireland) was behind some of the biggest property deals and developer loans during the boom. It helped fund Bernard McNamara's €288m buyout of the Burlington in 2007. Last year, the hotel was sold to Blackstone for just €67m.

Pratt is probably best known as the fresh-faced marketing whizz behind the Quinnsworth retail chain, which helped revolutionise the Irish market before being bought by Tesco. He later moved to become chief executive of cider maker C&C but stepped down following a profits warning.

He sits on the board of the Brown Thomas Group alongside billionaire Canadian owners Hilary and Galen Weston. The Foxrock resident is also chairman of drug distribution company Uniphar.

Sunday Indo Business

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