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Johnny Ronan backer says €317m debt was due in September

Digital Bridge and Ronan Group Real Estate are joint venture partners in a planned north Dublin docklands development


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US investment firm Digital Bridge Inc, formerly known as Colony Capital, has threatened to appoint a receiver over assets of a north Dublin docklands development known as Waterfront arising from an alleged €317m debt, the High Court has heard.

Developer Johnny Ronan’s Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) contend any move by ColEmerald 4 SARL, an affiliate of Digital Bridge, to appoint a receiver is unlawful and invalid and in "serious breach" of the Waterfront shareholder agreement and various other agreements.

Yesterday, a temporary injunction restraining any steps to appoint a receiver was continued to Tuesday when an application to fast-track RGRE’s action against Digital Bridge will come before the Commercial Court.

Digital Bridge and RGRE are joint venture partners in the planned development of Waterfront, a commercial and residential scheme of over 1,000 new homes and 66,718 sqm of office space  in Dublin’s north docklands.

The office scheme secured planning permission in August. An Bord Pleanála refused in May to grant approval for the residential element, comprising two 40-plus storey towers.

The legal action stems from a wider dispute between RGRE and Digital Bridge, which owns 70pc of the Waterfront development, after the US group decided in June to wrap its share of their wider Irish joint ventures in a sale of $2.7bn of international real-estate assets to New York-based Fortress Investment Group.

On Tuesday, RGRE and four related companies, RGRE Devco 1 Ltd, Waterside Westwick Ltd, Spencer Place Ltd and Tesson Ltd, initiated High Court proceedings aimed at preventing the appointment of a receiver over the Waterfront assets. They also secured an interim injunction restraining that appointment.

The defendants are Digital Bridge Inc, ColEmerald 4 SARL, ColEmerald 5 SARL, Aquela Ltd, ColDocklands Holdings SARL, Galoa Ltd, Waterside Block 9 Developments Ld and Waterside Devco 1 Ltd.

The court heard, arising from a letter of demand served last Monday, ColEmerald 4 SARL had threatened to appoint a receiver over the assets in the Waterfront Development.

In that letter, it was alleged a facility agreement between Waterside Block 9 Developments Ltd as borrower, and ColEmerald 4 SARL as lender was repayable in full on September 15. It was alleged the facility had not been repaid, an event of default had occurred and, at close of business on September 15, €316.9m was owing. The letter demanded repayment of that sum by 4pm on October 12  failing,  which it was stated all of ColEmerald 4’s rights, including to appoint a receiver, may be exercised.

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RGRE claims the move to appoint a receiver is unlawful and invalid and is a means of “expropriating” its interest in the Waterfront development.

The interim order was continued yesterday  by Mr Justice Senan Allen to next Tuesday to allow the RGRE side to apply for a fast-track hearing in the Commercial Court.

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