Agents look abroad for Fota resort buyers

THE 500-acre Fota Island Resort in Cork harbour, which is expected to make between €20 million and €25m, is to get an international sales campaign in January.

The resort, which includes a hotel, golf courses and holiday homes, is expected to sell well. There has been some preliminary interest shown already from India, the US, Israel and Europe.

The business, which was built up by developer John Fleming, who has just exited a bankruptcy period in Britain, is trading well and is profitable, according to the receivers and selling agents.

The estate and resort was developed at a cost of over €60m by Tim Mahony of Killeen Investments along with John Fleming, with Mr Fleming fully buying out Mr Mahony in 2005. A 130-bed hotel opened in 2006.

At that time, the value of the 110-job hotel and resort investment was put at €40m, with planning secured for 280 holiday lodges, of which 120 have been built and 60 of these have been sold. The total development value when completed was put at €200m.

The complex also hosted the Irish Open twice.

Receiver Billy O’Riordan of Pricewaterhouse Coopers has appointed as selling agents Cohalan Downing in Cork City and Colliers International in Dublin to put Fota “to the open market in early 2012”.

Billing the sale as “one of the most important and well-known properties to be offered for sale”, agents Maurice Cohalan and Marcus Magnier say: “It is unusual in what is deemed to be an over-supplied marketplace, Fota stands out, not just for its pedigree. but as a well-run business, trading profitably.

“We will be marketing the property internationally, and are encouraged by initial expressions of interest from major Irish and overseas hotel operators.”

The sale has been awaited for some time, with reports of Chinese and Indian interest. The receivership process began in March 2010 as the Fleming development empire unravelled, with total debts of €2 billion.

“This is a jewel of a property, in Cork terms and nationally, it is the gold standard of a quality development, with all the essentials in place, in a location just on the edge of Cork city and close to the airport,” said Mr Cohalan, confirming the 500 acres, and three strands of the business, were being offered in one lot, giving both value and future opportunities to buyers.

The original Fota estate comprised of 700 acres, and it left the Smith-Barry family’s hands in 1975, when it was acquired by UCC. The period, twice-restored Fota House and gardens are now owned and operated separately, as is the Fota Wildlife Park, which had 390,000 visitors in the past year.

Going for sale are the five-star 131-bed hotel and 20,000sq ft spa/leisure centre, the 27-hole golf complex, a clubhouse, and other lands, including the sections where planning permission was granted in 2005 for the 280 lodges, which are restricted to holiday use.

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