Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Nama sells £4.5bn NI portfolio for a knockdown £1.3bn

The Soloist building in Belfast is part of the property portfolio

A deal to sell around £4.5bn of debt attributed to Northern Ireland debtors has been completed by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

American investment firm Cerberus Capital Management announced yesterday that it had completed the purchase of the Portfolio Eagle loan sale transaction for a suspected £1.3bn, after months of speculation.

The sale becomes the largest single transaction by the 'bad bank' since it was set up to clear development loans from the Republic's main banks.

It will give the US firm control of hundreds of properties including office blocks, hotels, and development land.

The assets secured are scattered around Northern Ireland and the Republic, with some overseas, but all were attached to debtors from Northern Ireland.

Among them are the Lanyon Plaza and the Soloist buildings in Belfast.

It also includes properties outside of Northern Ireland, including the UK, Republic and Europe, which are owned by Northern Irish debtors. Nama had previously revealed that it paid around £1.1bn for the loans, following the country's property crash.

It will continue to control properties in Northern Ireland, but only those owned by debtors from the South.

As the loans originally had a value of £4.5bn, the deal will come as a blow for Irish taxpayers, who will have paid for the recapitalisation of the banks.

Nama was set up by the Irish Government with a 10-year lifespan to free the Republic's banks from the burden of toxic property loans.

Irish banks had lent money to about 55 developers based in Northern Ireland who used the cash to fund some 850 properties.

Around half were in Northern Ireland with the remainder in the UK, the Republic and Germany.

Cerberus, a venture capital fund specialising in distressed debt which manages around $25bn in capital, is now expected to spend several months engaging with the borrowers who hold the loans.

John W Snow, chairman of Cerberus Capital Management, said the deal will be an important foundation for its overall European strategy.

The sale comes just weeks after Northern Ireland's largest estate agents, BTW Shiells was sold to London-based company Lambert Smith Hampton, which advised Cerberus Capital Management on its acquisition of the Nama portfolio.

It is understood that BTW Shiells will provide local insight to the American firm.

BTW Shiells has also been involved in a significant number of Nama deals over the last two years.

The company is one of the largest managers of shopping centres across the UK and Ireland, with more than 8m sq ft of space under management, including the Victoria Square shopping centre.

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