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Harcourt signs refinancing deal with equity firm in US

By Nick Webb

Pat Doherty's Harcourt Developments - the group behind Titanic Quarter - has agreed a debt refinancing deal with American private equity firm Oaktree.

The loans were made by Oaktree's Luxembourg subsidiary HRGT SARL.

Mr Doherty is one of Ireland's more innovative property players. His Harcourt Group - one of the largest property companies in Ireland - is behind the hugely successful Titanic Quarter in Belfast, which has regenerated a large swathe of the city's docklands, through the construction of Titanic Belfast and Game of Thrones movie studio, as well as commercial, residential and retail schemes.

Harcourt was one of Nama's largest clients, with a proportion of the firm's €800m (£568m) in debt transferred to the Republic's agency.

In 2010, Harcourt's borrowings from three of its Irish lenders were moved to Nama under a second tranche of loan transfers. The company had estimated that "in excess of €500m" would be transferred to Nama.

Last year Harcourt indicated that it had renegotiated its debt with Nama and expected to exit the state agency by mid-2016. Harcourt's repayment of its Nama loans would see it join a number of prominent property borrowers successfully negotiating their way out of the state agency's supervision. Johnny Ronan recently refinanced his personal Nama debt with Colony Capital and it is understood that Deirdre Foley's D2 Property is also free from the organisation. Sean Mulryan's Ballymore Properties is thought to be close to paying off all its Nama loans, following a joint venture deal with Malaysian group Eco World to develop a €2.8bn (£2bn) London residential scheme.

Harcourt is a major hotelier, owning the Solis Lough Eske Castle in Donegal and the Wyndham Grand in Chelsea Harbour in London. Doherty's firm owns the five-star Carlisle Bay resort in Antigua. Harcourt is also involved with the operation of 40 Holiday Inn hotels in the UK as well as development projects in Las Vegas, the Bahamas and Jersey.

The Donegal man is one of the more colourful developers still operating. He appeared in the Beatle's Hey Jude video in the 1960s, is a well known art collector and commissioned iconic British artist Lucien Freud to paint his portrait. Harcourt Developments was also an active backer of polo during the boom, sponsoring the Queen's Cup at the Guards Club in London.

US private equity group Oaktree ­- which has close to $71bn (£46bn) in assets under management, has become increasingly active in the Irish market over the last year.

It has teamed up with Nama and Bennett Construction to develop a €450m (£319m) office block and apartment complex on Dublin's Docklands. The scheme is being developed by Targeted Investment Opportunities, which includes former IDA chief Barry O'Leary, ex- Nama property head John Mulcahy and top Oaktree executive Justin Bickle. Property sources have also said that Oaktree has been buying up swathes of development land around Dublin, with a view to moving into house building.

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