Belfast Telegraph

Landmark for sale at a bargain price

By Margaret Canning

A Prominent building in Belfast belonging to a now bankrupt developer has been put up for sale for under one fifth of its cost at the height of the boom.

The elegant Scottish Mutual Building was bought by Co Tyrone-based Jermon – led by pharmacist Peter Dolan – in 2007.

According to reports then it had a price tag just under £10m.

It is now for sale through commercial property agents CBRE for £1.75m.

Mr Dolan's firms bought dozens of offices and shopping centres during the late 1990s and 2000s, including the Linen Green Centre in Dungannon and Fanum House in Great Victoria Street, and even ventured into property in Poland.

But after the property crash his investments dropped drastically in value and many were repossessed by lenders.

Since the firm borrowed extensively from Irish banks, many of the properties were absorbed by the Republic's bad bank Nama and are now being sold by it.

Mr Dolan was made bankrupt by HMRC last year.

His year of bankruptcy is soon to expire.

Scottish Mutual is the latest of Jermon's former properties to go on the market and is being sold on the instructions of Jermon Ltd administrator, Tom Keenan.

The five-storey building includes five occupied ground-floor shop units and five upper floors of offices.

Ground floor occupant Nationwide recently signed up for another five years.

The ground floor is also home to Cafe Avoca – which is not linked with the Irish-owned Arthur Street cafe – Spar, the Cupcake Cafe and Brook Street Recruitment.

CBRE said: "The property is well positioned for complete refurbishment to provide quality office space. There is a limited supply of quality office accommodation in the Belfast market, leading to a supply and demand imbalance.

"The buiding is suitable for a number of alternative uses including hostel, hotel and residential accommodation, subject to planning."

Planning consultant Stephen Deyermond of TDK described the Scottish Mutual as "a character building in a great location".

Many other former Jermon assets have been sold.

LaSalle Investment Management bought the 120,000 sq ft Artizan shopping centre in Dumbarton, Scotland, for around £4.85m.

But Jermon had bought it for £17.8m in 2006.

Last year Killymeal House in the Gasworks, south Belfast, was sold by Nama to JM & JT Partnership for £3m.

As well as Donegall Arcade, Jermon also owned the building which houses Mothercare in Castle Place.

Strabane Retail Park and Laharna Retail Park in Larne were another part of the Jermon family.

Both were sold to London-based fund Mansford in 2011.

The Strabane site was on sale at £3.8m, while Laharna was on the market for £6.15m.

Tom Keenan of Keenan Corporate Finance was appointed administrator to Jermon Limited by First Trust and other banks in January 2011.

An administrators' report two months later said it had assets of £91m but debts of £191m, meaning a net deficit of just over £100m.

In 2010 a receiver was appointed by Anglo Irish Bank, now Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, to assets in holding company Jermon Developments.

Belfast Telegraph