Social media giant denies its Dublin expansion was influenced by Brexit

Move: An artist’s impression of the atrium at Facebook’s new Ballsbridge offices

Ronald Quinlan

Facebook has denied its decision to expand its Irish operations through the addition of 5,000 staff at a new European headquarters in Ballsbridge is in any way linked to the ongoing uncertainty being caused by Brexit.

Asked by the Irish Independent if the company's plan to lease the 14-acre campus on the site of the AIB Bank Centre was designed to be a safeguard against the damage Brexit might have on its ability to operate in the UK, a spokeswoman insisted that was not the case.

She said the social media giant was continuing to expand its operations in London, citing the company's agreement of a deal in July of this year to acquire 611,000 square feet of office space across three buildings at King's Cross.

But while the US-based social media giant insisted that its move to quadruple its current floor space in Dublin and grow its Irish-based workforce by 5,000 in the coming years is unrelated to the UK's decision to leave the EU, a recent report by real estate advisors Knight Frank suggests the wider tech sector views Dublin as a safe haven in the face of Brexit.

The report, entitled 'Under Pressure, Brexit', said: "For an industry that is reliant on drawing its workforce from a wide pool of international talent, we feel that the uncertainty regarding UK work visas post-Brexit is inducing tech companies to choose Dublin. The continued certainty of access to workers from across Europe is undoubtedly a factor that is playing in Dublin's favour at the moment."

Commenting on Facebook's intention to enter into a long-term lease on the AIB Bank Centre, Gareth Lambe, head of office for Facebook Ireland, said: "Ireland is one of the best places in the world to be a technology company and we're investing here for the long term."

First with the news: The Irish Independent announced Facebook’s expansion at Ballsbridge last September

Mr Lambe said Facebook would employ more than 4,000 people in Ireland by the end of this year, adding the company's investment in the AIB campus with capacity for thousands more employees demonstrated its desire to grow its business here.

While Facebook officially confirmed its decision to locate its new European headquarters in Ballsbridge yesterday, the Irish Independent reported last September the social media giant had agreed the terms of its move to the AIB Bank Centre site.

Facebook's new campus will comprise AIB's former Bank Centre buildings and 350,000 square feet of new offices being delivered by developer Johnny Ronan's Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) and Colony Capital at the front of the Merrion Road site.

The company's decision to take out a 25-year lease on Ronan's Fibonacci Square office development represents the largest single office letting in the history of the State.

AIB Bank Centre, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photo: Feargal Ward

The new buildings will frame the entrance to the wider Facebook campus.

The other properties on the site - which are owned by Davy Target Investments and a syndicate of investors known as the Serpentine Consortium - will undergo an extensive refurbishment before being occupied by Facebook.

AIB has been preparing for the redevelopment of its Bank Centre headquarters for some time.

The State-owned bank has already secured new office accommodation for its corporate headquarters at No 10 Molesworth Street, and for its employees at locations around the capital including Heuston South Quarter in Kilmainham and Central Park in Leopardstown.