Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland retail park could be sold off as owner Intu is taken over in £3.4bn deal

By Staff Reporter

Sprucefield Retail Park outside Lisburn could be put on the market after its owner Intu was sold to rival Hammerson in a £3.4bn deal.

Intu-owned Sprucefield Park and the Bullring in Birmingham, controlled by Hammerson, will come under one roof, forming a £21bn giant and the UK's biggest property company.

The deal represents a value of 253.9p per Intu share, equivalent to £3.4bn.

Last year, Hammerson and joint venture partner Allianz snapped up Dublin shopping destination Dundrum Town Centre in a £1.5bn purchase from Nama.

Hammerson boss David Atkins said that as part of the tie-up with Intu, the new group will offload at least £2bn worth of shopping centre assets, primarily in the UK. A spokesman said no assets had yet been identified for a possible sale. Intu snapped up Sprucefield Retail Park - which has tenants including Sainsbury's and Toys R Us - in 2014.

It comes at a time when consumer confidence has taken a pounding following the Brexit vote, resulting in a sharp decline in retail sales. Instead, Hammerson will target high growth markets in Europe such as Spain and Ireland.

Mr Atkins described the UK retail market as "challenging" and said that there is a "polarisation" between the best and worst shopping centres. Intu also operates the Trafford Centre in Manchester while Hammerson owns Bicester Village and Brent Cross shopping centre.

The combined group will be led by Mr Atkins and Hammerson chairman David Tyler. Shareholders will vote on the deal next year, with Intu having already secured more than 50% of investor support.

Mr Tyler said the delivered deal brought "real value for shareholders". He added: "The financial strength of the enlarged group and its strong leadership team will make it well-placed to take advantage of higher growth opportunities on a pan-European scale."

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.