Administrators of George Best Hotel still considering completing Belfast hospitality project

The George Best Hotel in Belfast, which went into administration in April 2020. Picture by Hugh Russell.
The George Best Hotel in Belfast, which went into administration in April 2020. Picture by Hugh Russell.

THE administrators of the George Best Hotel in Belfast are still considering potentially completing the controversial project on behalf of the creditors.

Duff & Phelps were appointed to Bedford Hotel Ltd in April 2020 after being called in by finance firm Lyell Trading.

The secured creditor is owed around £7.2 million in relation to the incomplete hospitality venture, which was initiated by Liverpool developer Lawrence Kenwright’s Signature Living group.

Another £12.2m is owed to a list of unsecured creditors, including around £4.2m raised from individual ‘bedroom investors’, who bought up the hotel’s 59 rooms on the basis of a generous return.

A report from the administrators last year put the book value of the incomplete hotel at around £6.6m.

While rescuing the company as a going concern has been ruled out, the administrators said they may be able to achieve a better result for the creditors if the hotel development is completed and subsequently commences trading.

But that effort has been hampered during by the pandemic and resulting government restrictions.

In a progress report to creditors, the joint administrators from Duff & Phelps said they are working with local property surveyors, valuation agents and Lyell Trading.

Under assessment is: The costs to complete the hotel project; the potential value of the hotel once complete; whether opened or not; and the value of the hotel incomplete.

The report states: “The ongoing assessment around the financial viability of the hotel development is to ensure any strategy adopted by the joint administrators results in best possible outcome for the secured creditor and the general body of creditors, including bedroom investors.”

The administrators said the work may begin in the first half of 2021.

The report reveals that legal advice has been sought regarding the status of the bedroom investors in each of the various strategies being considered, including if the hotel open or whether sold incomplete.

The joint administrators are also investigating transactions by the company prior to the administration, something they described as complex due to entanglement with associated companies.

“This process is expected to take some time,” they state.