Northern Ireland

Property firm, Valto, in administration

A property firm has been placed into administration as part of the restructuring of a major Northern Ireland business.

Valto Ltd was owned by brothers Shamus and Francis Jennings.

Some of Valto's main assets have been sold to new companies controlled by the Jennings, with the rump of the business going into administration.

A spokesperson for Valto said its main lender, Ulster Bank, "has provided assistance throughout the process".

Ulster Bank was owed about £120m when Valto's most recent accounts were filed in January this year.

The restructuring will mean the Saint Anne's Square development in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter will transfer into the ownership of the Ducales Group, whose principal shareholder is Shamus Jennings.

Ulster Bank mortgages were registered on various Ducales companies earlier this month.

Beacon House, an office block at Clarendon Dock in Belfast, has been sold to Glenmayne Ltd, a firm controlled by the Jennings family.

Valto reported a £21m loss in its 2012 accounts, which came on top of a £36m loss in the 18 months to March 2011.

Assets

It had a 2012 operating profit of £3.4m but that was wiped out through losses on the sale of investments, write-offs and a £6m interest bill.

At that time, the company had net liabilities of £169,000 compared to net assets of £95m in 2009.

The spokesperson added that Valto had traded profitably in the past but in common with the property sector throughout the UK and Ireland, there had been a significant reduction in the value of its investment properties.

He added: "The restructure has been undertaken to rebalance the group's financial position and the directors had appointed administrators from the consultancy BDO."

One of the assets that remains in Valto is a shareholding in the Junction One outlet centre.

The Jennings brothers are regularly rated as among the wealthiest people in Northern Ireland.

In 2008, they sold their building services firm, Rotary, to an Australian engineering company in a cash and shares deal worth £95m.

The same year they sold the Cromwell Hospital in London in a £90m deal.

Among their properties is a fishing and shooting estate on the Scottish island of Islay.

The affairs, business and property of the company are currently managed by Brian Murphy and Michael Jennings as joint administrators.