Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Thomas and Francis Jennings' Valto property firm in administration

Jennings brothers' company sells St Anne's Square and Beacon House

A property firm owned by two of Northern Ireland's richest people has gone into administration after selling two of its main assets.

Valto – owned by brothers Thomas and Francis Jennings – has transferred St Anne's Square in Belfast into the Ducales Group, the principal shareholder of which is Thomas Jennings.

And Beacon House office block in Clarendon Dock in the city, also owned by Valto, was sold to Glenmayne Ltd, a firm controlled by the Jennings family. BDO has been appointed administrator of the remaining Valto business.

The Jennings brothers are regularly rated as among the wealthiest people in Northern Ireland and in 2008 sold their building services firm Rotary to an Australian engineering company in a cash and shares deal worth £95m.

St Anne's Square is fully occupied both in terms of commercial tenants and residential occupants, with more than 250 employees throughout the complex.

Ducales said that the restructure has been undertaken to rebalance the Valto's financial position.

It said Ulster Bank Limited has "provided assistance" throughout the process alongside PricewaterhouseCoopers and "will continue to offer support".

BDO was appointed administrator after the sale of St Anne's Square and Beacon House.

A BDO spokesman said that the administrators expected keen interest in Valto's property portfolio.

Earlier this year Valto reported a £21m loss in its 2012 accounts, following a £36m loss in the 18 months to March 2011.

It had a 2012 operating profit of £3.4m but that was wiped out through losses. In February, Irish 'bad bank' Nama took over an English shopping centre that was owned by the Jennings family.

PROFILE

Brothers Francis and Thomas Jennings from Belfast used to be regulars in the Northern Ireland section of the Sunday Times' annual Rich List. Among their properties is a fishing and shooting estate on the Scottish island of Islay. Their father, horse breeder Gerald Jennings, was also involved in property and developed the Erneside shopping centre in Enniskillen.