Belfast Telegraph

Richmond Centre snapped up by investor in £20m deal

By Margaret Canning

The Richmond Centre in Londonderry has been sold in a £20m deal in the first big shopping centre transaction of 2015, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Richmond Centre was snapped up by London asset manager Vixcroft - marking the arrival of a new property investor in the market. Richmond Centre had been owned by the Hegarty family before administrative receivers were appointed by their lender, Royal Bank of Scotland.

The centre was then sold in 2010 for £24m to West Register, a company set up by RBS to manage its distressed property assets.

Retailers in Richmond Centre - regarded as a more low-end proposition than rival Foyleside - include Argos, Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) last year said it would wind up West Register.

But its understood the company still technically exists as it carries out the residual work of disposing of assets.

No-one from West Register was available for comment.

RBS appointed business advisers EY as administrative receivers in 2010, who then sold it to West Register. Arrowcroft was then appointed as asset manager for West Register, while the day to day running was carried out by commercial property agents Lisney.

Now Vixcroft, a spin-off from Arrowcroft, has taken on full ownership of the asset.

However, West Register will have benefited from nearly five years of rental income from the shops in the centre.

Daniel Carter, chief executive of Vixcroft, said: "We have been managing the asset since 2010 as Arrowcroft on behalf of RBS, who have been using specialist external asset managers to run assets they have inherited from defunct borrowers. Now as part of banks' deleveraging, they disposed of the property, allowing us to buy it."

Expecting the firm to retain the centre for the medium-term at least, he said: "Our immediate plans are to consolidate the improvements we have been able to make since 2010.

"This sort of multi-tenanted commercial property asset is not the sort of thing one would want to flip in and out of. It's quite an undertaking to buy an asset like this."

And he said the firm's ambitions in Northern Ireland would not necessarily end with Richmond Centre. "We would very much like to expand our activities in the province," he said.

The death of the chairman of Arrowroot had resulted in the emergence of spin-off Vixcroft, which had taken over the property portfolio of Arrowcroft.

Meanwhile, east Belfast shopping centre and retail park Connswater has been sold for £31.5m to a global investment management fund called Fortress.

It's understood Fortress is the new financial backer of original owner, Frank Boyd of Killultagh Estate.

No-one was available for comment from CBRE or from Fortress. The centre and retail park was on the market for £26m.

Belfast Telegraph