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New era as Cerberus now starts its fire sale

By Margaret Canning

News from Lambert Smith Hampton yesterday about the start of the process of selling former Nama properties is yet another aspect of tying up the loose ends of the property crash.

Nama had been set up to cleanse the Irish banking system of toxic loans on property. Since Northern Irish people borrowed as freely from southern banks as the next man, our developers were naturally seriously affected by Nama.

Many of Nama's debtors whose assets weren't sold on are part of the new Cerberus portfolio - and yesterday marked the first sales from that portfolio.

The debtor was the well-known north west family, the Kennedy Group, famously a title sponsor of the North West 200. Now their portfolio of property is being dispersed with the jewel in the crown, its Ramada Hotel in Portrush, on sale through CBRE.

The emergence of Cerberus has meant we have turned our sights from Nama to focus on a new player, which is unlikely to provide the same thrills, spills and headlines as the Irish state body.

Ulster Bank is also continuing its equivalent of Nama, as it rids itself of its unwelcome property loans - though with the improving property market, such debt is no longer the millstone it once was.

Another hotel in the north west, Kilrea's Portneal Lodge, is also likely to be part of Ulster Bank's Project Aran, which could be snapped up by Cerberus, one of three final bidders. There is plenty to keep us interested in the next few months.

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