Belfast Telegraph

Invest NI snaps up HQ building from McAleer & Rushe in £39m deal

By Margaret Canning

Invest NI has bought its Belfast headquarters and a neighbouring building for £17m in cash just weeks after a prospective deal got the thumbs-up from the-then Finance Minister.

It's understood to be the first time in Northern Ireland that government has bought headquarters built thorough a private finance initiative.

The transaction was facilitated by the Republic's bad bank Nama after it absorbed loans held by Tyrone-based McAleer & Rushe, the original developers of the Bedford Street buildings. The primary debt is still controlled by Nama.

The deal means Invest NI has also assumed the £22m debt on the building as part of the PFI structure, making the total cost £39m.

Invest NI said it had bought the company set up by McAleer & Rushe for ownership of the premises.

UK investment funds had also bid for the prized office asset after it was marketed for sale in November.

A spokeswoman for Invest NI said: "Invest NI can confirm that, at the request of the Department of Finance and Personnel and the Strategic Investment Board, it has purchased Bedford Street Developments.

"The agency now owns both the Invest NI headquarters building and Linum Chambers at Bedford Square.

"This purchase will deliver savings to wider Government over the remaining life of the private finance initiative (PFI) contract, and the building will now revert to public ownership.

"There will be no changes to Invest NI's delivery to its customers."

McAleer & Rushe property director Stephen Surphlis said the company was "particularly proud of its role in delivering this flagship development" which had attracted "intense interest" from UK funds.

"The price achieved reflected not only the strong covenant and income stream but the acknowledged high specification and finish of the building."

He added: "This transaction is an exemplar of private and public sector bodies working well together."

Mr Surphlis also said the company had a "positive and supportive" working relationship with Nama.

McAleer & Rushe and joint venture partner Dunloe Ewart will retain an adjoining site with planning permission for 225,000 sq ft of new offices.

Economist John Simpson said the deal was a sensible one for Invest NI.

"They have found a favourable opportunity when the property market prices are more in favour of a buyer than a seller. They have taken advantage of that in order to bring this back into the public sector."

Earlier this month, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson revealed that the Executive could pledge £17m to help Invest NI buy the high-end office building, to save £3m per year and a total of £24m over the lease period.

Belfast Telegraph