Belfast Telegraph

Cheap office space will attract investors: report

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's cheap office rents are a boost to its attractions as an investment location, according to a commercial property bulletin.

According to agents CBRE, office rents in Northern Ire-land were around 50% cheaper than those in the Republic.

"This puts Northern Ireland in a very competitive position in terms of attracting much-needed foreign direct investment to the region," said CBRE executive director Marie Hunt, who is the bulletin's author.

CBRE's update on the market in the third quarter of this year said there had been 'significant entrants' to the office market in Belfast in the first six months of the year. It's thought CBRE was referring to investors such as law firms Allen -amp; Overy and Herbert Smith which have both opened back offices in the city.

CBRE also came out in support of a cut in corporation tax, stating that 'if corporation tax is decreased, it will enable Northern Ireland to compete more effectively for foreign direct investment, which in turn will enable the region to reduce its over-dependence on the public sector'.

It said investors into Northern Ireland looked for retail opportunities and referred to the recent sales of Braidwater Retail Park in Ballymena, Co Antrim to a UK institution for £13.8m; the sale of Laharna Retail Park in Larne for around £8.8m and the sale of an office in Belfast for around £4.25m.

Though the buyers were not named in CBRE's bulletin, Braidwater was bought by public sector pensions scheme Northern Ireland Local Government Officers Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC) while London fund Mansford is understood to have bought Laharna from the receivers for Jermon Developments.

Jermon Developments' Fanum House is also the office referred to, sold for £4.25m to an unidentified investor who is thought to be from Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

Meanwhile, a one-off investor is thought to have been behind the purchase of the Royal Mail premises in Belfast for £1.25m.

CBRE also expressed disappointment at the failure of Westfield and Hermes to find a buyer to meet the asking price for Belfast's CastleCourt shopping centre.

The sale of the centre for a reported £170m was announced in June.

However it is understood that the offers, from three funds, did not come up to the mark for the sellers.

"Had this transaction been completed it would have been a hugely significant deal for the Northern Ireland market."