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Ireland's biggest hotels group has sights on Gresham

By John Mulligan

Dublin's famous Gresham Hotel - likely to have a €60m-plus price tag - is in Dalata's sights.

Dalata chief executive Pat McCann said he expected the Gresham, currently owned by Precinct Investments and controlled by Nama, to be put on the market within three to four weeks.

Dalata also operates Belfast International Airport's Maldron Hotel as well as the Clayton Hotel in the city's Ormeau Avenue, formerly known as the Holiday Inn.

"We haven't seen numbers, but it will probably be somewhere north of €60m (£43.6m)," said Mr McCann, when asked to speculate as to what price the Gresham, located on O'Connell Street, might be put on the market for.

But he warned: "We are not going to buy properties just for the sake of buying properties.

"We'll buy properties because we feel can get a return. If the Gresham comes up for sale, we'll look at it. If it doesn't meet our investment criteria, we won't do it. The question we'd ask ourselves is if there is hidden value in it. Because it's an older building, you'd have to look at how challenged it is in terms of refurb and structure." Dalata spent almost €524m (£381m) on hotel acquisitions in the first half of this year, including €452.3m (£329m) to buy nine Moran Bewleys properties.

Precinct Investments, which is owned by builder Bryan Cullen, is the vehicle that was used to take the Gresham Hotel Group private in 2004 in a €117m (£85m) deal. It is understood that Dalata - Ireland's biggest hotel group - is also likely to bid for two other properties when they come up for sale this year.

Dalata manages both hotels on behalf of receivers. One is the Pillo Hotel in Ashbourne, Co Meath, which benefits from the nearby Tayto Park. The other is the Clarion in Sligo town.

Both are likely to be targeted for acquisition by the group. Dalata deputy chief executive Dermot Crowley said Dalata had been outbid on other prime hotel properties in Dublin capital and wasn't prepared to overpay.

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