Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Bank buys The Outlet

Big drop in cross-border shoppers hits £70m Banbridge retail centre

By Margaret Canning and Claire Weir

Ulster Bank has bought one of Northern Ireland's biggest retail centres after the developer behind it got into difficulties.

The Outlet, outside Banbridge, was built to capitalise on cross-border trade but the expected volume of shoppers has not materialised.

Representatives of The Outlet refused to comment on the purchase, which took place at the start of last month.

It is understood GML Estates, which formed a joint venture with Land Securities to develop the scheme, is facing financial difficulties prompting its lender, Ulster Bank, to step in.

Around 60 of its 82 units are occupied and trading is continuing.

A spokesman for Ulster Bank said: "West Register (Northern Ireland) Property Limited, a specialist property asset management company wholly owned by Ulster Bank, has purchased The Outlet, Banbridge.

"The Outlet has a strong tenant list making up its stores, employing approximately 500 full and part-time staff from the local Banbridge area.

"West Register (Northern Ireland) Property Limited will work with the centre's management team to secure the long-term success of The Outlet."

Ulster Bank's purchase of The Outlet has been interpreted as a positive sign that the centre will continue to operate as normal.

In contrast, administrators are appointed by lenders in order to run a business until a buyer can be found or until a company can be wound up.

Ulster Bank is not expected to put The Outlet on the market in the near future as commercial property prices are depressed at present.

Tesco has also obtained planning permission to build a 80,000 sq ft store at the retail park.

The Outlet opened in 2007, costing more than £70m. With around 60 occupied stores, the retail park includes names like Gap, M&S, DKNY and Mamas & Papas. Cafes include Starbucks and Simply Deanes, owned by chef Michael Deane. Located on the A1, the main route between Belfast and Dublin, it was hoped that the complex would attract cross-border shoppers.

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