With a price tag of GBP 40m (€50m) equating to GBP 400 (€500) per square foot, it is a whopping asking price for an office block in Belfast. But as the headquarters of Invest Northern Ireland – the equivalent of Enterprise Ireland on this side of the Border – the building is set to generate GBP 115m for its owner over a 25 year period.
Today, we learn via the BBC that the 100,000 sq ft headquarters of Invest Northern Ireland on Bedford Street in central Belfast is coming on the market through Northern Ireland agents, Osborne King – at time of writing, neither a listing nor brochure appears on the Osborne King website. The building is being co-marketed by ASM Accountants, says the Belfast Telegraph. Robert Ditty of Osborne King is reported as saying “we anticipate keen interest from institutional and overseas investors. This is a positive step in terms of attracting inward investment into the Northern Ireland economy. As a showcase example of a public private partnership working successfully since November 2005 and an office occupied by Government, we anticipate achieving a price in excess of £40m”
The owners of the block are a consortium which comprises McAleer and Rushe – which appears to be one of NAMA’s healthiest developers – and a successor to Liam Carroll’s Dunloe Ewart called Dunloe (NI). Whilst Dunloe Ewart is massively insolvent and Liam Carroll is in the wars with NAMA despite his acknowledged cooperation with creditors, Dunloe (NI)doesn’t appear to have issues and Liam Carroll is apparently no longer involved with that company. The consortium have a company Bedford Street Developments, the accounts for which indicate that NAMA is one of its lenders. The building was apparently completed in 2005 under a public private partnership with the NI government, under a umbrella company called MRDE Limited.
The Sinn Fein Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Foyle, Martin Anderson submitted a parliamentary question to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2008 which led to the revelation that the development of the property is set to cost the Northern Ireland taxpayer between GBP115-125 between 2005 and 2030. And indeed it seems that it is the lease with the public sector agencies – Invest Northern Ireland and the Public Prosecution Service and the Northern Ireland Law Commission – which confers much of the value to the property. In addition to 100,000 sq ft of existing accommodation, there are 71 car parking spaces and there have been plans to build an adjacent office tower and a warehouse refurbishment .
Contrast the asking price here with the GBP 3.1m (€3.9m) actual sale price of the 25,000 sq ft Killymeal House in central Belfast in May 2012. Even compared with the 175,000 sq ft state-of-the-art State Street building in south Dublin Docklands which is close to being sold for €105m (or €600 psf) but with three acres of adjacent development land thrown in, this asking price looks impressive but appears to be supported by the leases in place with blue chip public sector agencies.