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Archive for October 16th, 2011

The London Sunday Times (not available online without subscription) is today reporting that NAMA has sold Updown Court, the 50,000 sq ft mansion on 58-acres in Surrey, just outside London. The Daily Mail has picked up on the story, which gives that paper the opportunity to again use its rich stock of photographs of the property. Updown Court was shown on the NAMA foreclosure list at the end of August 2011, meaning the agency had taken control of the property.

The property has its own website here and its owner, developer Leslie Allen-Vercoe had been trying to flog it for six years before NAMA appointed CB Richard Ellis as receivers.

NAMA hasn’t commented on the sale as is its practice, but on the face of it, the sale represents a solid success for the agency. The sale price is reported to be GBP 35m (€40m). It had previously been reported in the press – though naturally not confirmed by NAMA – that NAMA had acquired the underlying loan for the property for GBP 20m (€23m). If the reporting of the sale price and the NAMA-acquisition price are accurate, then NAMA will have generated a profit of GBP 15m (€17m) before costs. Of course Irish Nationwide Building Society has suffered a massive loss on the original loan, but at least NAMA seems to have done its job.

The buyer of Updown Court remains a mystery and is said to be a “foreign businessman”. If unsuccessful buyers want to check out Ireland’s most expensive house, here it is – Walford on Shrewsbury Road in Dublin, a derelict mediocre Edwardian property which has been extensively vandalised, it comes with two acres. Savills seems to think it has an Advised Minimum Value of €15m!

UPDATE: 30th January, 2012. It seems as if the sale of the mansion has just completed for GBP 36m (€43m) and Property Week claims this is GBP 27m less than the borrowing associated with the property. The buyer is said to be from the Middle East.

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No wonder Northern Ireland’s finance minister, Sammy Wilson, is getting antsy about NAMA’s role in what is a relatively small local economy; during the week the BBC reported that yet another Northern Ireland property company, County Down developer MAR Properties, has loans which are now managed by the agency.  MAR Properties owns a range of residential and commercial property in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England which include shopping centres, pubs/restaurants, hotels and residential developments. Its most prominent development, as part of a consortium, was the 28-storey Obel mixed-use development on Donegall Quay inBelfast – at 85 metres,Ireland’s tallest building; MAR subsequently sold their interest in the development to the KARL Group. MAR is probably most associated with Noel Murphy (“M”), Adam Armstrong (“A”) and William Rush (“R”) who founded the group in 1997.

NAMA’s Northern Irelandloans are understood to total about €4bn, or 5% of NAMA’s overall portfolio of about €73bn. I can’t help but notice that Northern Irelanddevelopers make up a disproportionately high number of the NAMA-bound developers which are kept track of on here. It seems there is far better analysis of company accounts and press releases in the North, particularly by BBC Northern Ireland, than there is on this side of the border. At the start of last year the Irish Times published what it understood to be the NAMA Top-30 developers after what seemed like a straight-forward leak from the agency, despite the agency’s public stance that it won’t generally reveal the identities of its developers.

But beyond that report, there has been precious little research by the Irish (Republic) media to identify other NAMA developers; the Irish Examiner is probably the best for obtaining accounts and revealing NAMA involvement. But Irish News and Media (INM) the press group effectively controlled by the O’Reillys and Denis O’Brien seems, with some honorable exceptions, to sit back and re-report. The Irish Times is better but not considerably so – I didn’t see anywhere in our media (here and here for examples) last week the Financial Times being credited for breaking the news that Derek Quinlan’s Mayfair car park is close to being sold, the story was re-reported.

No wonder INM’s CEO Gavin O’Reilly can claim all INM titles (which include the Belfast Telegraph, the (Irish) Independent, the (Irish) Sunday Independent, Sunday World, Evening Herald and a number of provincial newspapers and part-controls the Irish Daily Star) are all profitable in their own right – if you don’t spend on investigative or research-based reporting and rely on re-reporting, it’s can’t be too difficult to contain costs so as to ensure titles are profitable.

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