Belfast Telegraph

Tycoons to keep Foyleside and Forestside after assets sell-off

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland businessmen John B McGuckian and Ken Cheevers have retained ownership of their Foyleside and Forestside shopping centres after a mega-sale of their retail assets, according to reports.

The eight-strong portfolio of shopping centres, which also includes Fosse Park in Leicester and the Marshes Centre in Dundalk, has been on the market with a combined worth of over £700m.

John B McGuckian and Ken Cheevers are respectively better known as an industrialist and former chairman of UTV Plc, and the owner of McLaughlin and Harvey, building and civil engineering firm.

But their companies, Foyleside Ltd and Abbey Centre Ltd, also hold a string of shopping centres and retail parks – with Fosse Park, which has a value of £350m, the jewel in the crown.

Yesterday, commercial property agents Savills in London refused to comment on the outcome of the bidding process, which has been taking place over the last few weeks.

But according to trade magazine Property Week, the Crown Estate remains most likely to emerge as the successful bidder for Fosse Park.

The publication also said that the 353,706 sq ft Foyleside in Londonderry and the 317,649 sq ft Forestside were being sold to venture capital firm Kildare Partners for a combined £130m.

However, 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, which submitted a failed bid for Nama's portfolio of Northern Ireland loans last month. They have also bought Priory Meadow in Hastings and The Avenue in Newton Mearns – with the three estimated as having a combined sale price of £140m.

The sale price of the seven assets totals £360m.

Meanwhile, Standard Life Investments is buying Palace Exchange in Enfield for around £60m, while Kennedy Wilson Europe – the Marshes Centre in Dundalk for around £30m.

A spokesman for the Crown Estate yesterday refused to confirm that it remained the preferred bidder for Fosse Park. But James Cooksey, the head of its regional portfolio, said last month: "As one of the top five owners of regional retail property in the UK, the Crown Estate continues to seek opportunities that align with our investment strategy and we are considering a bid for Fosse Shopping Park in that context."

The portfolio was assembled using substantial loans from Ulster Bank, which is attempting to reduce its property loan book.

The £360m purchase of the Fosse Shopping Park in 2006 was said to be the largest single retail property purchase in the UK since the early 1990s.

Belfast Telegraph