Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Property spending at best in two years BY MARGARET CANNING

Three big property investments in Northern Ireland made April to June a lucrative quarter for retail transactions, commercial property consultants said.

CBRE's latest report said the three deals were worth over £53.3m, the highest quarterly spend since the end of 2010.

A Tesco store in Lisburn as well as a B-amp;Q retail park and Sainsbury's store, both in Londonderry, were sold.

Tesco in Lisburn was sold and leased back to UK fund manager LaSalle Investment Management for around £18m.

LaSalle also snapped up a Sainsbury's store in Londonderry for £17.9m - while Metric Property Investment bought Faustina Retail Park, Derry from receivers for £17.4m.

But CBRE cautioned that the good news in retail was not shared in the office market, where take-up had been so slow that the property consultancy firm had changed its forecast for the year.

Managing director Brian Lavery said: "The macro economic environment and uncertainty regarding the financial markets has evidently unnerved occupiers in recent weeks and caused delays in office accommodation decisions being made.

"That said, there is an under-current of interest and activity prevailing which could translate in to lettings in coming months were the wider economic situation to improve and particularly once a decision is made on the corporate tax rate," he added.

But there had been some office deals, he said, such as offices in Millennium House which were let to inward investor CME Group.

Offices at Riverside Tower had also been let to insurer Axa while Hewlett Packard had moved to new premises at Forsythe House in Belfast.

Slow decision making by companies, lenders and Nama was hindering investment decisions, Mr Lavery said.

"The lack of a decision on corporation tax is also holding people back, such as the larger potential occupiers we talk to."

That had resulted in companies like PayPal choosing to set up in the Republic rather than Northern Ireland.

The online payments processor announced this year it would open a European operations centre employing 1,000 people in Dundalk, Co Louth.

But tourism was one bright spot, according to CBRE: "Hotel operators across the province are expecting to see some of the best occupancy rates in recent years over the summer due to the hosting of the Irish Open, the opening of the Giant's Causeway visitor centre and the success of the Titanic Quarter facility in Belfast."

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