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Irish Commercial Property Investment and the Northern Irish Protocol

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Transaction values north and south of the border are higher than their respective five year pre-Covid H1 averages

Belfast and Dublin, 16 August 2021: Investment volumes for the first half of the year in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have risen above their respective five-year averages.

During H1 2021, 2.7billion was transacted in the Republic and £142million in Northern Ireland, up by 16 per cent and 79 per cent, respectively, against their five year pre-pandemic average, suggesting that commercial property investors have shrugged off Protocol uncertainty. It also suggests that when certainty returns, that an unrealised investment upside might suddenly be realised. In contrast, across the Irish Sea in Great Britain, investment volumes were down 14 per cent against the five-year average, although transactions began accelerating in June.

Analysis by Colliers’ UK head of research and economics Dr Walter Boettcher found similarities between the deals completed in the Republic and Northern Ireland. “Similarities with asset characteristics and investor composition are evident,” he said. “For example, many transactions included long leases to very secure tenants such as multinational tech giants, government and supermarket operators. Operational real estate assets linked to demographic trends such as build to rent apartments, student accommodation and care homes were also moving. In short, assets with secure income continued trading.”

“In both locations cross border investors dominated, accounting for well over half of activity by value in both locations. These investors are typically sensitive to political risk and economic turbulence and their continued commitment to the two countries shows that they still have confidence in the Republic and Northern Ireland. This also suggests that fears about international tax policies changing the Republic’s commercial attractiveness may be unfounded. If there is a downside, it may well be linked to having not achieved an upside that might have otherwise been achieved in the absence of these uncertainties. In short, from a commercial property perspective, encouraging signs of confidence are evident.”

Managing director of Colliers Ireland Declan Stone added: “Capital markets in Dublin and Belfast have remained resilient. International clients see these two cities as two distinct countries with different regulatory regimes and investment decisions are often aligned to targets linked to national exposure. The protocol uncertainty may mean that cross border investment and development spend from the south to the north will remain limited, if not decline. Likewise, north to south capital migration looks likely to increase until the Protocol impasse is resolved.

“The greater risk is in the occupier markets, mainly retail and manufacturing because they are directly linked to importing and exporting and recent comments from M&S seemingly bear this out.‘’

Jonathan Millar, managing director of Colliers Belfast added: “Belfast has huge potential, underpinned by its young talent pool and emerging tech platforms. While Protocol uncertainty does not help, even more fundamental is the lack of cohesion across Stormont departments and local government needed to bring forward generational changing real estate solutions to capture this potential. Belfast City Council, unlike its peer group UK counter parts, has no development powers. In urban regeneration terms, BCC is simply a planning department. Until such times as the NI Assembly and the City Council recognise that best in class real estate and employment are intrinsically linked, then much of Belfast’s potential will either be delayed or diverted elsewhere in the UK.”

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Declan Stone

Managing Director | Retail & Capital Markets

Dublin

Declan joined Jackson Stops (now Colliers International, Dublin) in 1991 and was appointed Managing Director in 2005. He is recognised as a senior industry figure in the Irish market with expertise and in-depth experience representing major corporate clients, project and development assembly (greenfield to finished product), major investment transactions and international retailer representation.

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