Monday 17 December 2018

Key role for boom-era developer Barrett in €100m Chinese Goodbody bid

Richard Barrett of Bartra Capital Group now spends much of his time in Shanghai
Richard Barrett of Bartra Capital Group now spends much of his time in Shanghai

Gretchen Friemann

Boom-era property developer Richard Barrett has helped broker a Chinese suitor's €100m tilt for Goodbody Stockbrokers, the Irish Independent understands.

Mr Barrett, who co-founded the now defunct Treasury Holdings property empire alongside Johnny Ronan, has recently forged back into the Irish market with his rapidly expanding €1.2bn investment vehicle, Bartra Capital Group, but spends the majority of his time in Asia.

The Irish Independent understands the Mayo native, who has been an on-off Shanghai resident for over 13 years, fostered talks between the Chinese investor and Goodbody. That role has been confirmed by multiple market sources.

Goodbody declined to comment on Mr Barrett's involvement, while Bartra Capital said it was unable to comment.

Any deal will require approval from both Irish and Chinese regulators.

Goodbody is majority controlled by the Kerry-based financial services group Fexco.

If the deal is agreed Fexco and the broker's other shareholders stand to reap a hefty profit, as AIB was forced to sell the business for €24m at the nadir of the banking crisis.

Since then Goodbody has received at least one earlier approach - but the price offered was far below the €100m mark.

It is not clear whether the latest bid includes the €45m Goodbody is due to collect from its stake in the Irish Stock Exchange when it is sold to Euronext, under a deal due to close at the end of next month. Either way, however, it appears that Mr Barrett's connections in China have opened up a rare opportunity for Goodbody.

Fexco snapped up a 75pc interest in the State's second-largest stockbroker in January 2011 and has since sold back a portion of the business to executives and staff, as part of an incentive scheme agreed at the time of the takeover.

Goodbody's management now control just under 50pc of the business, a position that reflects the Dublin-based broker's improving fortunes as it deepens links to the UK market and consolidates its market position at home.

It acted as corporate broker to AIB - it was a member of a nine-broker syndicate on the bank's recent IPO - and has advised on string of recent flotations including Draper Esprit, a venture capital firm listed on the junior exchanges of the London and Dublin bourses, as well as Cairn Homes.

Goodbody has also nurtured strong relations with Barrett's Bartra Capital.

Mr Barrett remains best known at home for his part in the rise and collapse of Treasury Holdings, which had one point controlled a €4.8bn property empire.

It collapsed in the wake of the crash, owing €2.7bn to banks and Nama.

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business