Northern Ireland

Forestside, Foyleside and Abbey Centre up for sale

Foyleside shopping centre
Image caption Derry's Foyleside shopping centre is among the properties in the retail portfolio that has gone on the market

It has been confirmed that some of Northern Ireland's best known shopping centres are up for sale in a deal that could be worth more than £700m.

The estate agents Savills have been appointed to sell Forestside, Foyleside and the Abbey Centre.

Five other shopping centres in England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland are also included in the portfolio.

The shopping centres are currently owned by two related firms, Foyleside Ltd and Abbey Centre Ltd.

They assembled the portfolio using substantial loans from Ulster Bank.

The firms are understood to be controlled by two of Northern Ireland's wealthiest men: Former UTV chairman John B McGuckian and Ken Cheevers, who owns the McLaughlin & Harvey building firm.

The other properties involved are the Marshes Centre in Dundalk, County Louth, Palace Exchange in Enfield, greater London, the Avenue shopping centre in Newton Mearns, Glasgow, Priory Meadow in Hastings, East Sussex and the Fosse Shopping Park in Leicester.

The Fosse Shopping Park is the most valuable asset, it was bought for £360m in 2006.

Simon Hope, head of global capital markets at Savills, said: "We are delighted to be instructed by the Abbey and Foyleside Groups on this high profile project and are looking forward to working with them to achieve their objectives.

"All of the assets are of a very high quality with strong property fundamentals, well let with major asset management opportunities. We are therefore anticipating good interest from across the entire investor spectrum."

The borrowings on the shopping centres represent one of Ulster Bank's largest remaining property exposures.

The bank is currently implementing a plan to reduce the size of its property loan book.

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