Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Belfast's tallest tower The Obel goes on market

Belfast city centre

Waterfront skyscraper The Obel has gone on the market in the latest twist since its inception as an emblem of Belfast's economic prowess.

The Donegall Quay development includes a 28-storey block and an office building let to law firm Allen & Overy, while there are 282 apartments mostly owned by landlords.

The companies set up by original owners the Karl Group – Obel Ltd, Obel Offices Ltd and Donegall Quay Ltd – went into administration in 2012. It's thought the loans controlling the development are being sold rather than the asset itself. Agency Savills has been appointed but refused to comment on the process.

A spokesman for the Karl Group also said he did not wish to comment, though it's understood the family business is unlikely to seek to buy back the property.

Marketing information for the sale describes the Obel as a 'landmark property' with 'strong commercial and established residential income streams'.

It is dubbed 'a uniquely popular development', with the advantage of being close to office buildings, the Titanic Quarter, Odyssey, Metropolitan Arts Centre and the Cathedral Quarter.

Obel 62 includes 233 apartments, of which nearly 60% are owned by landlords, while Obel 64 has 49 apartments on seven floors, all owned by landlords.

Most of Obel 68 has been let out to law firm Allen & Overy, and includes five commercial units on the ground floor. A report on the commercial property market by CBRE also reports that Centre House on Chichester Street is on the market for £4m The building is part of the property portfolio of John Miskelly, a Co Down businessman and owner of boutique hotel Ten Square.

It's understood the proposed sale is being driven by the Republic's bad bank, Nama, which absorbed loans held by Mr Miskelly's company Applecroft.

CBRE said the year was likely to be dominated by the decision of Nama to appoint Lazard in the sale of its Northern Ireland property portfolio under Project Eagle.

A spokesman for Nama refused to comment on the specific sale of Centre House, but said it was "business as usual" for its deals in Northern Ireland.

CBRE reported the year so far had been quieter than anticipated. Two sales had taken place, with a UK buyer snapping up McDonald's and Lipsy units at 2 to 4 Donegall Place for £4.1m, and a multiple-use building in Main Street, Banbridge sold for £920,000. The former, 2 to 4 Donegall Place, was formerly owned by the Wildrose group of property companies belonging to bookmaker Barney Eastwood and his family.

Brian Lavery, managing director of CBRE's Belfast office, said the year had gotten off to a quiet start. "Not a lot has happened and not as much as we would have hoped because most of the banks and Nama haven't been concentrating on selling units but on the entire sale of their portfolios."

But he said there had been some interest in retail, adding: "We have seen a marked increase in the number of enquiries from both local and multiple UK retailers since the beginning of the year with a number of transactions now in legals and due to sign over the coming weeks."

The 28-storey Obel building in Donegall Quay was opened three years ago and includes an office building let to law firm Allen & Overy and 282 apartments. The companies set up by original owners, the Karl Group, went into administration in 2012.

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