Friday 19 January 2018

State-backed body in €80m bid to run Convention Centre

Irish Infrastructure Fund is interested in running the profitable Convention Centre in Dublin
Irish Infrastructure Fund is interested in running the profitable Convention Centre in Dublin
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

The State-backed Irish Infrastructure Fund bid in the region of €80m for the long-term licence to operate the national Convention Centre in Dublin.

The 20-year licence to run the Convention Centre, which is based in Dublin's IFSC, is being sold by liquidators of Spencer Dock Development Company (SDDC), part of Johnny Ronan and Richard Barretts one time Treasury Holdings property empire.

The cash will fund a dividend to SDDC creditors - including biggest lender Nama. The Convention Centre itself was never in liquidation and the profitable business has debts which it has been paying down.

Liquidators Paul McCann and Michael McAteer have selected the Irish Infrastructure Fund (IIF) as the preferred bidder for the business, from a long-running auction process.

A deal is expected to close in the coming months.

The change of control will not affect customers or the day-to-day operations of the Convention Centre.

The property is owned by the State through the Office of Public Works (OPW) but the right to operate the business had been licenced to SDDC under a public private partnership agreement which was used to fund construction.

The assets being sold include the concession contract to operate and maintain the Convention Centre Dublin until 2035, a long-term lease on an adjoining 321-space car park, and a license to build and operate an approximately 330-bed hotel on a site adjacent to the Convention Centre.

Yesterday, the board, management and staff of the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD)welcomed the deal.

The Irish Infrastructure Fund was set up in 2011, with €250m corner stone investment from the National Pension Reserve Fund and a target to raise €1bn from investors in Ireland and overseas to invest in infrastructure assets in Ireland.

The fund was established by Irish Life Investment Managers, with AMP Capital appointed as the fund's discretionary investment manager.

It has previously invested in windfarms and wireless telecoms infrastructure company Towercom. The executive chairman of the CCD, businessman Dermod Dwyer, said the IIF was "good fit" as buyer of the business because it shares the long term approach of the OPW.

"The Convention Centre is a strategic national asset. In this regard the long-term approach of IIF will be a good fit with the objectives of the ultimate owner of the Convention Centre, the OPW. CCD has been delivering both a profit for the business itself and wider economic benefits and we expect that to continue," said Mr Dwyer.

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