EUROPE NEWS: Irish eyes are smiling

Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) agreed to sell a portfolio of loans worth around €220 million to Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing (MSREI) last month, underlining how the gates appear to be opening for private equity real estate firms keen on acquiring assets from distressed Irish banks.

Not many more details were disclosed by the parties to the deal, although Brian Niles, MSREI’s head of Europe, said the firm was pleased to be at the forefront in acquiring loans portfolios from NAMA. The purchase is said to be an investment on behalf of the bank’s global opportunistic vehicle, Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund VII Global, the investment period of which recently was extended.

NAMA, which recently reorganised and has appointed a raft of advisors to accelerate the disposition of €31 billion in assets, said the portfolio of loans was secured against a number of assets across the UK, with a particular concentration in London and Manchester. The assets backing the loans consist of a mixture of income-producing properties and development sites.

It is understood that the loans are associated with Donal Mulryan, whose main property vehicle, West Properties, owned mostly residential developments in Manchester as well as a London site. Donal is the brother of Sean Mulryan, the founder of a property company called Ballymore, which the Irish Independent reported as the single largest debtor in NAMA’s portfolio. Donal Mulryan is understood to still be managing the assets behind the loans that MSREI agreed to purchase.

NAMA has noticeably been stepping up its activity in order to sell assets. One of its most recent actions was to appoint receivers to Becbay Limited, a company that owns the 25-acre former Irish Glass Bottle site in Dublin. The site was bought at the top of the market by a consortium that included Derek Quinlan, the poster-boy of the Irish property diaspora, and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority for €412 million. Becbay recently valued the site at just €30 million, according to 2010 accounts.

As PERE previously reported, not only are private equity real estate firms keen on buying Irish property loans against UK and other overseas properties, some also are examining the potential to buy assets in Ireland itself. Indeed, Hines, the Houston-based developer and real estate fund manager, opened an office in Dublin last year for just that reason.


NAMA officer joins Forum

The hiring of Farrell is part of Forum’s plan to expand in the European debt space

Last month, Forum Partners appointed Enda Farrell, a former portfolio manager at NAMA, as its representative in Ireland. In the newly-created post, Farrell will perform a number of roles for Forum, including sourcing loans from Irish financial institutions and creating new products for investment in Ireland.

“We’ve been looking to enter the Irish market for some time, and steps have been taken by the Irish government to restructure the market to a point where there may be intriguing investment propositions there,” said Russell Platt, Forum’s chief executive officer.

Farrell was one of the first officers employed by NAMA when it was set up in 2009 and was responsible for due diligence on a €74.2 billion portfolio of property-related loans acquired from a number of Irish financial institutions. Prior to NAMA, he worked for the National Pensions Reserve Fund of Ireland, as well as Pramerica Real Estate Investors and UK-based developer Hammerson.