Hospitality sector has a busy year with some big sales

Irish hotels are back in business - they’ve sold like hot-cakes during 2014, with over 50 finding new owners, with €450m changing hands in the process.

Hospitality sector has a busy year with some big sales

And, with a dozen more or so late-year deals in the balance to meet a CGT tax exemption sweetener, that could rise yet to €600m by December 31.

Furthermore, tourism figures have rebounded remarkably, with overseas visitors up almost 9%, or 530,000 on last year’s levels to stand at 6.5m, and the Wild Atlantic Way is driving increasing numbers to the coastline.

Just like on the Monopoly board, there’s money at stake once you land on an hotel, and the big boys are out at play. On top of the circa €600m possible outcome, a further €200m was spent on hotels involved in loan sales: if the Moran Bewley hotels also sell by year’s end, the tally could reach €1bn, according to Tom Barrett of Savills.

Case in point of the big boys splashing the bucks is the sale going through of Limerick jewel Adare Manor (pic right), reportedly to mansion-dwelling JP McManus, on 750 acres. Owned for almost 30 years by US-based Tom Kane, it’s now being bought for over €30m.

JPMcManus has been linked to the€30 million purchase of Adare Manor

Adare is the ultimate trophy buy, even trumping the €11m paid over the county border in West Clare, where US billionaire Donald Trump picked up the Doonbeg resort (main pic) after bruising planning battles in Scotland.

Buyers for Irish hotels came from all corners, and especially the US: late 2013,Cork-based Chinese buyers the Kangs picked up the Kingsley in Cork for €6m, adding it to their €25m Fota Resort purchase: the Kingsley reopened mid- 2014 after an expensive refit. Other top Munster sellers in 2014 were Killarney’s Malton Hote l (pictured), with 172 beds, making c €18m and bought by the Scally family who own other Killarney hotels as well as Cork’s Hayfield Manor.

Malton Hotel, Killarney

The Malton deal (the old Great Southern) was done by Savills’ Denis O’Donoghue and Tom Barrett, who had over €70m in Munster hotel sales alone. Some of their other sales were the the Radisson Little Island(middle pic) for circa €9m to iNua Hospitality, who also bought Limerick’s Radisson Hotel for c €3.5m. Rapidly expanding iNua are paying c €6.5m for Killarney’s 68-bed/10 guest cottage Muckross Park, developed by Bill Cullen and Jackie Lavin, via DTZ.

Radisson Hotel, Little Island

Limerick’s Strand Hotel with 184 beds was sold for €20m to US-based investor John Malone. He paid €65m for Dublin’s Westin Hotel, added to Dublin Hilton, and Trinity Capital, which he bought in 2013.

It was a year of dramatic changes for Limerick, in fact on top of these and the headline-making Adare sale, the 93-bed Savoy Hotel Limerick made c €6m, and the 151-bed Jurys Inn fetched €2.5m, and the George made c €4m.

Cork’s Blarney Resort was sold to a Northern Ireland-based buyer, Tommy O’Gorman for a snip at €2.5m after several price reductions while Irish family-owned group Talbot Hotels swooped on Cork’s 78-bed Oriel House Hotel in Ballincollig, for €8m, and the 79-bed Midleton Park Hotel for c €4m.

Strand Hotel, Limerick

Galway-based businessman Pat McDonagh of SuperMacs went sale agreed on the 91-bed Charleville Park Hotel for €4m, and also sale agreed by year’s end is Cork city centre’s 91-bed Metropole, guiding €4m, to an as-yet undisclosed buyer.

Also swiftly sale agreed just this week was the Quality Hotel, Redbarn, while in Co Tipperary the Dundrum House Hotel, on 170 acres, which had been guided by Savills at €2.75m is now sale agreed, says Savills’ Denis O’Donoghue.

In Thurles, the Anner Hotel made €1m, to local buyers and the historic Hayes Hotel (birthplace of the GAA) got about €650,000, at auction, to an Irish buyer with a UK bar background.

A very local buyer, Colin Boyle linked to Tralee’s Manor West development, came to buy the 100-bed Tralee Central Hotel. An Austrian investor, Thomas Roggla and represented by Davy, bought Waterford’s Fitzwilton Hotel for c €3m, having also bought Killarney’s Agahdoe Heights earlier in the year also via DTZ for €6.5m.

Irish hotels are getting people back in their beds and bars, at a level close to the mid 2000s boom, but also benefitting are guests, who are paying less for their accommodation than at peak. In Cork, for example, recent room rates average €74, down from €90 per room in 2007, though occupancy is higher, at 79%, up from 69% in the same year.

According to monitor Trending.ie, Cork hotels’ RevPAR figures to end October are up 9.5%, to €58, and Limerick is up 13% to €35 over the same period. (Shannon airport figures are now on the rebound, in part due to an uplift in US tourism, ‘though Cork airport’s numbers are still in decline.)

Hotels’ improved performances “are being driven by economic recovery and increased tourism numbers,” suggests Savills hotel expert Denis O’Donoghue, who also reckons that a major driver for Cork will be the development of the Events Centre - once the competition for the venue is finally adjudicated upon.

He notes the repeat buyers for Irish hotels, such as the Kangs, John Malone/LalCo, McGettigans and Talbot Group, and adds that once bought, many get a refurbishment, helping to get cash back in the wider economy again.

Further hotel sales beckon via Nama’s Project Crystal, which includes Fels Point in Kerry and the Clonmel Park, via CBRE who note “The outlook for next year is very positive; the Government held the VAT rate at 9% in the last budget, the Wild Atlantic Way has been very positive for leisure hotels and the western seaboard.”

The latest CSO tourism figures show an 8.8% growth in overseas visitors, up 530,000 to 6.557m for the 10-month period January to October, though it noted a dip in October, except for the North American market - up 20% on a year ago.

“The return to growth in Ireland’s tourism industry is very evident from the 12 month rolling data to end October which clearly shows that the momentum of growth which began in 2013 has been more than sustained over the past 12 months,” said the CSO, adding “while the number of visitors this year will not reach back to the heady days of 2007 and 2008, it is not far off the all-time volume record.”

n Meanwhile, on the bar front, Dublin is showing a sales resurgence: Making €3.3m was Foley’s, Merrion Row, the highest price paid for a Dublin city pub in the last five years, prompting confidence for other city bars in the multi-million euro league.

Noteworthy, too, says agents CBRE, was the sale of the Capital Bars Collection of four Dublin pubs (Café En Seine, The George, The Dragon & Howl of the Moon) for a combined €15 million.

Given the evident prosperity in the capital’s entertainment scene, it’s hardly surprising that entrepreneurial publicans like Cork’s multi-venue owners Benny and Cliodhna McCabe, and Ernest Cantillion, have made moves on the city, as the UK’s Wetherspoons also eyes up Irish locations also.

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