US fund Pimco's deal to buy Sprucefield Retail Park 'the biggest deal of 2020'

Sprucefield Retail Park has changed hands again.
Sprucefield Retail Park has changed hands again. Sprucefield Retail Park has changed hands again.

THE US fund which tried to buy the portfolio of former Nama loans in Northern Ireland - known as project Eagle - now owns a 90 per cent stake in Sprucefield Retail Park.

Pimco’s Bravo Strategies III fund paid £34.7 million for the lion’s share of the Lisburn retail park at the end of September, just ten months after London-listed real estate investment trust NewRiver bought the asset for £40m from Intu.

Shopping centre specialist Intu paid around £70m for Sprucefield Retail Park in 2014.

NewRiver brokered a deal with Bravo back in early 2019, which has resulted in both entities forming a joint venture to buy and manage retail parks in the UK.

The £34.7m Sprucefield transaction is listed as the biggest commercial property deal done in the north last year.

A new report analysing investment transactions in 2020 by Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) found a total of £90.3m changed hands over retail assets in the north last year.

Other major deals included Slate Asset Management’s purchase of Abbey Retail Park, Newtownabbey for £33m from Hammerson Plc and David Samuel Properties purchase of the Holywood Exchange Retail Park, for £17.8m from Aviva Investors.

Although classed as industrial, UBS Asset Management’s purchase of the Amazon’s warehouse in the Titanic Quarter was the other major standout transaction. It was acquired from Titanci Quarter Ltd for £27m.

Overall, the LSH report said the £156m of investment transactions recorded in 2020 was 28 per cent down on 2019 and 33 per cent below the five-year average.

LSH said the decline was not as pronounced as expected, with the major deals listed above helping push the investment total up.

But outside those large transactions, the real picture of the market was much more stark.

Just seven deals under the value of £5m were noted in 2020, compared with the five-year average of 33.

Meanwhile, investment in the office sector plummeted to £8.6m, some 78 per cent below the five-year average and the lowest since 2012.

But at £57.1m, industrial investment surged to a record high, almost three times the five-year average.

LSH director Jonathan Martin said: “The Coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly had a massive impact on the Northern Ireland investment market in 2020, however, there were still a number of significant transactions which clearly demonstrates there is investor demand for good quality stock with strong fundamentals.

“As a level of normality returns, we expect to see increased investor demand especially for prime assets and with an element of distress inevitable post pandemic, adjustments to pricing across certain asset classes will present new opportunities for investors.”