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Forestside and Foyleside shopping centres up for sale in Northern Ireland

By John Mulgrew

Two of Northern Ireland's biggest shopping centres - worth more than £150m - have gone on the market. According to a report by commercial property firm CBRE, both Forestside in south Belfast and Foyleside in Londonderry are up for grabs.

It is understood they were owned by US venture capital company Kildare Partners.

In 2015, this newspaper revealed the centres were being prepared for sale, after Forestside and Foyleside were split from one single parent company into two firms.

In 2014, FRP Advisory was appointed to voluntarily liquidate the single company, Foyleside Ltd, before transferring it to two new companies responsible for each shopping centre.

According to accounts from 2015 for both separate businesses, their combined value is around £158m.

At the end of last year, Forestside revealed it was at full capacity after securing health food store Holland & Barrett.

And just last month, Argos opened up one of its new stores at the shopping centre.

The centres originally belonged to John B McGuckian and Ken Cheevers respectively, better known as an industrialist and former chairman of UTV plc, and the owner of McLaughlin and Harvey, the building and civil engineering firm.

The pair retained ownership of the Foyleside and Forestside shopping centres after a sale of their retail assets in 2014.

The report from CBRE also said that while the commercial property market had a "slow start" to the year, it expected around £78m worth of major deals to complete during the second quarter.

"The market continues to function with resilience as initial concerns over Brexit have failed to materialise", the company added in its report.

"According to our research, a total of £7.657m was invested in six transactions in Northern Ireland during the first three months of 2017."

CBRE, which is headed by Brian Lavery in Northern Ireland, stressed that a continuing trend was the "dominance of private equity firms" in the local market.

Turning to the general office market here, the business said it "received a welcome boost" at the start of the year, with a raft of announcements of new grade A developments.

They included plans for a £26.5m office development in Belfast's Titanic Quarter, capable of housing 1,500 people.

Titanic Quarter Ltd and Belfast Harbour said Olympic House would be an 148,000 sq ft office, situated next to the Public Record Office and Belfast Metropolitan College.

A £65m office block on the site of a Belfast city centre cinema is also now a step closer after plans were submitted for the 12-storey building.

Under the project, the Movie House on Dublin Road will be razed and replaced by a development with a capacity for 3,000 staff.

The scheme was revealed by this newspaper last year.

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