Dip in deals as Bow Street Mall sold for well below asking price of £18m
Lisburn's Bow Street Mall was sold for around a third less than its £18m asking price, according to a survey of the commercial property market.
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The report on investment deals by agents Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) also shows a dip of nearly 50% in the proceeds of big investment property sales in 2018 compared to 2017.
LSH said that investors were being put off by political uncertainty with few deals anticipated for the first quarter of this year.
Its report reveals that Bow Street Mall was sold for £12.3m - well below its £18m asking price.
Bow Street Mall has a 32% vacancy rate, leaving the shopping destination one-third empty.
Former tenant TK Maxx relocated out of the centre in 2017. But its former unit is not classified as vacant as it is let to Tesco under a long-term lease, even though Tesco does not use the space.
The Belfast Telegraph revealed last week that the billionaire Comer brothers Luke and Brian from the Republic bought the site, along with Downe Retail Park in Downpatrick, marking their first investments in Northern Ireland.
LSH said high quality retail, office and alternative commercial property assets in Northern Ireland remain in demand despite investment volume in 2018 falling to its lowest level since 2013.
Its investment transactions bulletin for quarter four showed that at £176.6m, the annual total for big sales was 48% lower than 2017 and 12% lower than the 10-year average. However, 2017's figures had been inflated by the sale of CastleCourt shopping centre for £123m.
But after a slow first quarter in 2018, quarterly activity had consistently exceeded £50m for the remainder of the year, LSH said. Despite challenges in the retail sector, it accounted for almost half of 2018 activity.
As well as the sale of Bow Street Mall, the home of newsagent Eason in Belfast city centre was sold for £16.4m to French investor Corum Asset Management, while Castlebawn Retail Park in Newtownards was sold for £7.2m.
Martin McCloy, LSH director of capital markets, said: "The challenging political environment has undoubtedly had a negative effect on investment activity in the past two years, with 2017 boosted by the £123m sale of CastleCourt shopping centre.
"While overall the market has demonstrated a level of resilience, there is a lack of supply of good quality assets and investor caution is evident.
"The usual trend of a quiet first quarter is likely to be exacerbated in 2019 by Theresa May's plans to re-open negotiations on the Irish backstop and the fast approaching deadline for the UK to leave the EU in March.
"Both buyers and sellers are delaying decisions until there is clarity on the withdrawal agreement or on no agreement, as the case may be."
But he said investment was expected to pick up when the terms of a future relationship between the EU and UK becomes clearer.