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shopping spree Goldman Sachs moves to take over Blanchardstown centre

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Blanchardstown Shopping Centre (Pic: Mark Condren)

Blanchardstown Shopping Centre (Pic: Mark Condren)

Blanchardstown Shopping Centre (Pic: Mark Condren)

Goldman Sachs has insisted it sees a bright future for the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre in Dublin as it seeks to take control of one of the country’s largest retail venues from US investment giant Blackstone.

It’s likely that Blackstone, which bought the shopping complex from Stephen Vernon’s Green Property for €950m in 2016, is walking away with little to show for its four-year investment after retail asset values were pummelled during the pandemic.

AIB is among the lenders with debt attached to the shopping complex, which has about 112,000sqm of retail space, 180 stores and anchor tenants including Marks & Spencer and Penneys, as well as restaurants and a cinema.

Goldman Sachs is also one of the financial backers for Blackstone’s investment in Blanchardstown and had €150m of riskier mezzanine debt attached to the centre.

Blackstone has been locked in talks for months with lenders on the future of its Blanchardstown investment as it saw rent collections plunge by as much as 25pc at the venue.

Blackstone bought the centre with a €767m loan from Morgan Stanley. There was €580m in senior debt, of which Morgan Stanley now holds a small part. The remainder of that senior debt is held by AIG and AIB, with AIB holding the smaller portion of it.

It was reported back in August in the Irish Independent that Blackstone was prepared to agree a consensual surrender of control of Blanchardstown if a debt deal with lenders couldn’t be agreed.

Neither AIB nor Blackstone would comment on the planned takeover of the centre yesterday. Goldman Sachs had formally notified the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission of its intention to buy the complex.

The planned deal will include the centre itself, two adjacent retail parks and external retail units, as well as a five-storey office block.

The pandemic has hammered brick-and-mortar retail businesses, with lockdowns forcing many to pull down the shutters. That has in turn seen rent collections decline, hitting asset values.

UK property group Hammerson, which owns half the Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin, has slashed the value of its assets in Ireland by about €100m due to the effects of the pandemic. It also co-owns the Ilac Centre in Dublin and the Pavilions shopping centre in the Dublin suburb of Swords. A further slump predicted by Goodbody Stockbrokers would see that asset writedown touch €200m.

Goldman Sachs’ merchant banking unit confirmed yesterday that it intends to buy the Blanchardstown centre, describing it as an “excellent asset in a prime location with a very strong mix of high-quality retailers”.

“Our intention is to invest in the refurbishment of the centre to enhance the shopping experience and ensure that it remains as a world-class retail destination,” it added.

“We have great confidence in the future prospects of the centre,” said the group.

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