Ulster Bank to sell Irish hotels portfolio

Ulster Bank has agreed to the sale of its Project Coney portfolio to Sankaty Advisers, a U.S.-based affiliate of investment group Bain Capital. The portfolio comprises loans relating to 36 hotels and other commercial assets. It is not clear how much Sankaty paid, reports The Irish Times, but the market value of the properties is estimated at €187 million and an overdraft of €14 million is also included.

Some 89 percent of the remaining loan balance is in default and involves more than 200 borrowers. Dublin accounts for about 40 per cent of the market value of the loans.

The portfolio includes loans concerning some high-profile assets, including the five-star Monart hotel and spa, Hotel Kilkenny, and the 102-room Ferrycarrig property. These form part of Griffin Hotels, a chain controlled by the former Wexford hurler Liam Griffin, and more than €20 million is owed on the properties.

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Other loans in the sale are linked to high-profile hotels including the Radisson in Athlone, the Camden Deluxe in Dublin, Trim Castle and the Tullamore Court in Offaly.

This is the latest step by Ulster Bank and its parent, Royal Bank of Scotland, to deleverage its balance sheet in Ireland.

RBS received about £1.1 billion from the sale of Project Aran, which closed in the first quarter of this year and involved about 5,000 assets.

The sale was carried out by RBS Capital Resolution, a work-out vehicle set up by the UK bank to reduce higher risk exposures. It has reduced its book of troubled Irish assets from £4.8 billion gross to about £1.5 billion in the past 18 months.

Ulster Bank is also selling Project Trinity, which involves 6.8 acres of development land in Ballsbridge that was acquired by Seán Dunne at the height of the property bubble for €380 million.

It is also planning the sale of a €2.5 billion portfolio of loans to SMEs, buy-to-let investors and commercial property.

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The transaction, expected to be consummated in the first half of 2020, is still subject to regulatory approval and other closing conditions.

The China-based conglomerate also acquired the iconic brand's IP assets as part of the £11 million deal, with the brand expected to live on online.