Sunday 17 December 2017

Johnny Ronan raises €250m for Irish comeback

Maverick Treasury developer seeks new land deals

Johnny Ronan
Johnny Ronan

Niamh Horan & Nick Webb

Maverick property developer Johnny Ronan is close to raising €250m to fund a major comeback on Irish and UK markets as he seeks to bring investors back into the higher-risk development sector.

It is thought that Mr Ronan, who has just launched a new website and branding for his business, would use the profits from any successful scheme to help pay down his personal exposure to Nama. "The big winner here would be the Irish taxpayer," say sources.

Ronan is thought to be one of the few major developers who will be able to repay 100 per cent of his Nama debt as it had been conservatively financed.

He is believed to have been in discussions with US and UK institutional investors over the last year about raising money for the Irish and London markets.

"Some are development specialists, others are hedge funds. A lot of time has been spent talking to them," according to a London-based financial source.

Previously, Mr Ronan, who was one of the heavy hitters at the annual property showcase MIPIM in Cannes last week, had teamed up with Hines and Macquarie in a move to buy Treasury Holdings' €1.7bn Nama debts. He recently teamed up with Kennedy Wilson to bid for Mespil Road.

The word around MIPIM is that Mr Ronan also has, or is about to, make Nama an offer to repay 100 per cent of his loans. This would be a massive coup for Nama and the taxpayer and would free up Mr Ronan to get back into the development business.

"There's plenty of land out there. What is needed is the cash and the developers," a source told the Sunday Independent. "It's ready to rock."

It is believed that the Ronan-led group is preparing to ink its first land deal "very soon".

The new website, www., makes for very interesting reading, including testimonials from such luminaries as Raphael Vinoly, the Uruguayan architect of Battersea Power Station.

"This is an out and out development company, with high risk but high returns," according to a source.

Treasury-designed Battersea is forecast to generate profits of up to €10bn for its new Malaysian owners after being sold off by Nama and the banks. The sheer scale of the project catapulted Treasury on to the world stage. "Battersea is one hell of a calling card," said the source.

Mr Ronan has assembled a team including former Treasury and GE executive Guy Leech.

Mr Ronan and Treasury had built or developed some truly mega projects, of more than 25m sq ft. Spencer Dock alone was up to 8m sq ft, and Battersea will be 8.5m sq ft.

Earlier this month, Nama announced that it was seeking development partners for up to €100m worth of joint-venture projects.

The state agency said it was "seeking expressions of interest from parties who have the capacity to invest with Nama on a joint-venture basis where such opportunities arise".

It may be considered an unlikely pairing, but if Mr Ronan repaid his loans 100 per cent it would be a game-changer.

A functioning economy needs a healthy construction sector and property developers will need to be encouraged to invest in new schemes in Ireland, which will create jobs and boost exchequer funding.

A number of major developers are working with Nama to progress projects including Joe O'Reilly and Sean Mulryan.

If Mr Ronan is successful in paying off his loans to Nama, he will join a select group of developers who have managed that feat. This includes Paddy McKillen. Both Mr Ronan and Mr McKillen have been involved in bitter lawsuits with the state property group over the survival of their businesses.

Sunday Indo Business

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