Belfast Telegraph

Boost as companies invest £5m in property space in six months

By Margaret Canning

Companies in Northern Ireland have invested over £5m in new industrial and warehouse space in the first half of 2014, according to commercial property agents CBRE.

The agents said around 200,000 sq ft of space had been sold and rented as companies expand their premises to meet growing demand and explore new markets.

The deals so far this year included an expansion by Leckey in Lisburn, which has taken out more space in Greenwood Business Park in the city to meet orders for its postural aids.

And specialist marine civil engineering service ABCO Marine has taken on another 23,000 sq ft in Lisburn.

CBRE director David Wright said interest in industrial property and land had been increasing, leading to more deals.

"We really seem to be seeing a return to health on the industrial property front and the level of interest and demand in properties has been significant.

"Inquiries from interested parties – as well as viewings – have increased noticeably and more importantly have translated into robust bidding from several parties looking for industrial and distribution space."

He said there had been a transformation in business confidence in the last 18 months – pointing to an even stronger second half for the year, and perhaps a return to speculative development.

Separately, CBRE also said there had been a strong level of investment at over £143.7m in the commercial property market during the first half of the year.

CBRE said there had been a "resurgence" in demand for Northern Ireland investment assets over the last 12 months.

There was a greater depth of buyers, including a rush of US investors.

CBRE said the bulk of the deals were, as is typically the case in the Northern Ireland market, concentrated in retail. Transactions included the sale of Shane Retail Park by Corbo Properties to US investor Marathon for £30m. The same investor also bought Cityside Retail Park for £24m – and the Obel office and apartment development for over £20m.

CBRE said the trend of strong retail sales was likely to continue in the second half of the year. Major retail sales would include the Forestside, Foyleside and Abbey Centre shopping centres, part of a chain of retail properties belonging to Northern Ireland businessmen John B McGuckian and Ken Cheevers, which are to be sold in the Project Swallowtail transaction.

According to reports, Forestside and Foyleside are being sold to venture capital firm Kildare Partners for a combined £130m. It's understood Kildare Partners are the backers of Mr Cheevers and Mr McGuckian.

Meanwhile, the pair's Abbey Centre in Newtownabbey is among three shopping centres which have been bought by New River Retail alongside US firm PIMCO.

They have also bought Priory Meadow in Hastings and The Avenue in Newton Mearns.

Fosse Park in Leicester, which also belongs to the two, is to be sold to the Crown Estate. Standard Life Investments is buying Palace Exchange in Enfield for around £60m, while Kennedy Wilson Europe is buying the Marshes Centre in Dundalk for around £30m.

But CBRE said there would also be office investment sales in Northern Ireland during the remainder of the year.

According to CBRE, Victoria House office building in Belfast city centre is now under offer to a UK fund for £8.7m.

The 22-storey Windsor House office building in Bedford Street in Belfast city centre has also been put on the market with a guide price of £5m.

Belfast Telegraph