Belfast Telegraph

Connswater could set the seal on great year of sales

By Clare Weir

East Belfast shopping centre and retail park Connswater has attracted "strong demand" since going on the market for £26m, according to a new report.

Commercial property firm CBRE's final analysis for 2014 said it had been a bumper year for the market with a marked jump in investment transactions.

Retail was also picking up in the city centre with crystal jeweller Swarovksi and clothes chain Jaeger opening new stores - and YO! Sushi opening a new restaurant - all in time for Christmas.

Brian Lavery, managing director of CBRE in Belfast, said investment property was showing clearest sign of recovery, with £41m ploughed directly into the market in the first nine months of the year.

Around 90% had been retail deals such as shopping centre sales, he said.

Mr Lavery said the sale by the Republic's bad bank Nama of its entire Northern Ireland loan book earlier this year had "helped stimulate" asset sales.

But he added: "We've also benefited from an escalation in job announcements which has boosted office leasing activity as well as rental growth.

As well as Connswater, a number of other retail properties currently being sold include The Richmond Centre in Derry, at £21m, The Mall in Portadown, for £2.8m and the Diamond Centre in Coleraine, at £2.25m.

Recent transactions include the sale of Orritor Road Retail Park in Cookstown, Co Tyrone for a reported £3m, the sale of a Tesco Superstore in east Belfast for £24.7m, the sale of the Cylinder Building in the Gasworks for £3.3m and the sale of the Batik Building in the Gasworks for £1m.

Meanwhile, CBRE said 45 hotel properties were sold throughout Ireland in the first nine months of 2014, totalling almost €280m (£218m) between them - compared to 33 hotels being sold, totalling €160m (£124), for the entire year of 2013.

Those transactions include the sale of the Lough Erne Resort, in Co Fermanagh for a reported €10.5m (£8.2m) to a company linked with Chicago businessman Tony Saliba.

The report also referred to the sale of hotel portfolios including Project Nadal, a portfolio of Ulster Bank loans. International investment house Goldman Sachs has emerged as the preferred bidder for loans relating to Belfast's luxury Merchant Hotel.

A renewal of activity in the office leasing market in Belfast has been driven by a flurry of new jobs announcements, particularly in the technology sector, where companies like Puppetlabs and Version1 have snapped up Belfast accommodation.

In fact, over 200,000sq ft of offices had been leased up to the end of September, with more than half of this activity occurring in the third quarter of the year alone.

Office rents in the city were now up to £156 per sq m (£14.50 per sq ft).

Belfast Telegraph

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