Dalata on €90m Cork hotels spree

Ireland’s largest hotel operator, Dalata, will have spent up to €90m on Cork city hotels by next year, spanning purchases, upgrades and completion of its Beasley St hotel site off Cork’s South Mall and Parnell Place (pictured) where a €10.2m purchase from Nama has finally just completed.

Dalata on €90m Cork hotels spree

This latest buy, with provision for at least 120 bedrooms, will give it control of some 20% of greater Cork’s hotel stock, or over 530 bedrooms, according to Dermot Crowley, Dalata’s Deputy CEO, Business Development and Finance.

Cork now holds the second largest concentration of Dalata hotel rooms, after Dublin.

The company, which floated two years ago, has rapidly evolved with a firm, disciplined three-and four-star business model.

It now controls 7,700 hotel beds in Ireland and the UK, posting pre-tax profits of €28.5m for 2015, on turnover of €225m for 2015, up a staggering 185% on the previous year thanks to acquisitions.

It is keen to grow and consolidate in Irish cities, including Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Limerick (where it bought the Clarion), as well as Derry and Belfast in the North.

It owns 20 hotels in Britain and Ireland, after the Moran Bewley acquisition of nine hotels, and leases a number of others, controlling 42 in all.

Last year, it bought the Clarion Cork for €35m via Savills, and since then it also bought the leasehold interest on the Clarion and three other hotels, including the Gibson, Dublin, for €40m.

Cork’s Clarion, said to be the most successful hotel in the city, will be rebranded later this year as a Clayton Hotel, and will see a rolling investment and upgrades.

But, despite being keen supporters of the Events Centre due on site in the southern city, Dalata doesn’t plan further Cork hotel acquisitions, Mr Crowley stated when asked if they’d get involved in BAM’s Sullivans Quay hotel site.

And, while they looked at the Metrolpole Cork, they decided not to purchase.

Similarly, despite still having a war-chest of €70m left for acquisitions after raising cash and debt, the company is not interested in the headline historic hotel Dublin sale of the Gresham, reportedly making c €80m, the company indicates.

Dalata, which operates under the Clayton and Maldron hotel brands, is currently spending about €4m on upgrades to the Silverspring Clayton Hotel, including a €2.5m investment in a total refurb of the conference centre, facade upgrades and window replacement, and will refubish 60 bedrooms later this year, said Cork-born deputy CEO Mr Crowley.

The company intends to significantly build business at the Silversprings Clayton conference centre, and drive the extra bednights to its hotels in the city centre such as the Clarion on Lapps Quay, and the Maldron in Shandon, where it is investing up to €2m and which Mr Crowley adds “does a very strong weekend leisure and summer family break business.”

Also in that alliance will be the 120-bed Maldron to be delivered at Beasley St/Parnell Place.

Total investment at the Beasley St site is likely to come to €20m, will employ 60, and it will be run as a four-star, similar to four-star Maldrons it runs at Pearse St Dublin, and at Dublin Airport, Mr Crowley told the Irish Examiner.

Following completion of this €10.2m hotel opportunity purchase from Nama (first reported in these pages in January, where the former Corbett family project with had been left in shell and core state for close to a decade,) Dalata hope to meet in coming weeks with City Council officals to see how they see the largely-pedestrianised Beasley Street hotel fits in to overall plans for South Mall, Oliver Plunkett St, and Parnell Place.

The company may seek to get more bedrooms in at ground level, and may also seek to improve access/presence to South Mall: but, it has no plans or wish to buy the classic AIB former bank at 97 South Mall as a statement entrance, Mr Crowley confirmed.

Right now, it has its most striking facade onto the narrow Beasley St, with angled limestone section, and there’s two basement parking levels with car lift.

Design was by James Leahy Architects and it’s understood Dalata is talking to several design firms about completing and maximising the interior and bedrooms tally.

“Cork is quite unusual, in that a lot of its hotels are outside of the city centre: we really like the idea of city centre locations, and we are very upbeat about the prospect for Cork City and also for Galway, while Limerick is recovering too, but from a low base,” said Mr Crowley.

Cork hotels like the Clarion had a very strong FDI business from the likes of Apple, EMC, Boston Scientific, and other positive indicators for the city include the Event Centre, “which will be critical in generating new business,” Green REIT’s purchase of JCD’s One Albert Quay offices, the Capital Cinema site and the prospect of transatlantic air routes using Cork Airport, said Mr Crowley.

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