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Irish property shares shorted by UK investors

TT International has taken a bet that Ires Reit shares will decline even as the stock trades near all-time high

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Ires Reit CEO Margaret Sweeney. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Ires Reit CEO Margaret Sweeney. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Ires Reit CEO Margaret Sweeney. Photo: Naoise Culhane

A UK investment group is betting that shares in Ireland's biggest private landlord - Irish Residential Properties Reit - will fall.

London-based TT International has taken a short position against the firm's shares, the first time such a move has been made against the Reit.

When investors short a share, they are betting that its price will drop. They borrow a company's shares from other shareholders and can profit if the price falls by buying back the shares at a lower price to return them to their original owner.

Irish housebuilder Cairn Homes also has short positions on its stock. They include a 0.58pc short held by Odey Asset Management.

But short positions can turn sour if the share price of the target company rises.

Shares in Irish Residential Properties (Ires) Reit were trading at €1.68 yesterday afternoon, not far off the all-time high of €1.77 that was reached in August. The group currently has a market capitalisation of €802.3m.

TT International has shorted 0.63pc of Ires Reit's shares, valued at about €5m. While that is a relatively small amount, the fact that a short position has been taken could unnerve some investors.

The real estate investment trust floated on the stock market in 2014, becoming the third Irish Reit to secure a listing in Dublin. It raised €200m from Irish and international investors. Its initial portfolio comprised 338 residential units across four properties in the greater Dublin area.

Since then, its asset base has expanded significantly. During the summer, it agreed to buy a portfolio of 815 residential units for €285m from Marathon Asset Management.

Ires Reit raised €134m from a share placing to fund the acquisition of the properties in Dublin and Cork. That placing was executed at €1.55 per share. At the end of June, Ires Reit owned a portfolio of 2,771 residential units.

The purchase from Marathon and other deals brought the total to 3,884 - some 45pc more than the group had at the end of December.

Last month, the company also secured planning permission for the construction of 428 apartments at Sandyford on Dublin's southside.

When it released interim results last month, Ires Reit CEO Margaret Sweeney said the group's commitment to the Irish market was now "well established" and that it was "well underpinned for future growth".

She added: "The strategy we are deploying is delivering for both our shareholders and for the Irish economy."

The company generated net rental income of €41.2m last year, and €22.7m in the six months to the end of June.

Earlier this month, one of Ires Reit's biggest shareholders, Canada's Timbercreek Asset Management, cut its stake in the Irish firm to 5.98pc from 6.81pc.

But Morgan Stanley increased its total holding in the Reit to 5.35pc from below 3pc this month.

US investment giant Fidelity owns a 4.9pc stake in Ires Reit, having reduced it from 5.9pc earlier.

TT International was founded by Tim Tacchi in 1988 to manage European equities. During the summer, Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group agreed to buy TT International, which now manages about $8.4bn (€7.7bn) of assets, for a rumoured £153m (€172m).

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