Belfast Harbour has snapped up part of the Obel building in the city centre in a deal worth over £15m, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The harbour, which operates Belfast Port, is understood to have paid over the asking price of £15m for the seven-storey office development.
Obel 68, situated alongside the 27-storey Obel tower, is let to London law firm Allen & Overy and located on land once owned by the harbour.
Harbour chief executive Joe O'Neill confirmed the deal, which cements its position as a major developer of offices in the city. Its own City Quays development in Clarendon Dock is already home to major companies such as broadcaster UTV and law firm Baker McKenzie, as well as tech businesses Cayan and GolfNow.
It's now seeking planning permission for the third phase of City Quays.
Mr O'Neill said: "The Obel office building is contiguous with our City Quays regeneration development and its purchase aligns with our long-term strategic business plan for property development and investment.
"The site the Obel office is situated on was previously owned by Belfast Harbour and we are delighted to be bringing this landmark building back into local ownership and to once again demonstrate our confidence in the Northern Ireland economy and provide a boost to Belfast's commercial property market."
Marathon Asset Management bought the entire Obel site four years ago for around £20m after it was built by the Blackbourne family.
Purchasing Obel 68 allows the harbour to increase its control over the area at Donegall Quay, which leads on to the harbour-owned Clarendon Dock.
As well as Allen & Overy, part of the Obel development is also let to Lagan Boat Company and Mount Charles Group, operator of coffee shop Fed & Watered on the ground floor.
Economist John Simpson said the deal signalled the harbour's ambitions in property. "It's fair to say Belfast Harbour has become much more ambitious in terms of property development in Belfast, and that's something we should welcome.
"What the harbour has already done has added greatly to business density in the harbour area."
Mr Simpson said former harbour chief executive Roy Adair and its chairman David Dobbin are due credit for the growth in property development.
"David Dobbin has been a good driving force in the growth of the harbour," he added
In its annual report for 2017, Belfast Harbour reported a 5.6% increase in operating profit to £34m.
It also committed £132m to future investment projects.