American firms mainly headed by Irish Americans are snapping up dirt cheap Irish real estate, mostly in Dublin.
The biggest investor has been the Los Angeles based realty company Kennedy Wilson headed by Irish American Chief Executive William McMorrow, reports the Irish Times.
The company has bought the State Street Building in the Dublin docklands for $150 million, the gasworks complex for $52 million and the Clancy Barracks site earlier this week for $100 million.
They have gotten massive discounts on their deals down around 70 per cent in price since the peak of the Celtic Tiger boom.
Meanwhile, New York-based King Street Capital, a hedge fund headed up by Irish American Brian Higgins, paid $90 million for a massive suite of offices at Bishop Square near downtown Dublin .
Higgins was rated 34th in the top 100 hedge fund managers with an income of $100 million. His company specializes in distressed properties.
The New York based Blackstone group has also been very active, snapping up the Burlington Hotel at a 75 per cent discount for $95 million down from the $370 previously paid for it.
“What’s interesting is that this is really the first time that there has been serious international buying in the Irish market,” Jones Lang Lasalle managing director John Moran told the Irish Times.
“The Irish market traditionally was left to the Irish institutions, developers or property companies, and it is probably the first time we’ve seen a real significant sea change of ownership in the market.”
A large collection of loan portfolios on Irish properties owned by NAMA, the state owned company charged with selling distressed properties, was bought by Starwood Capital for under $250 million down from a Celtic Tiger valuation of $1billion.
There have been no Irish buyers of major property, a fact explained by John Moran, “You get a discount for putting cash on the table now and hope that the market will increase in value or add value through other strategies. That has been the preserve of international buyers, where there has been no domestic involvement.”
Industry figures also say a big problem in the property sector is that there isn’t enough supply.
“There’s very little by way of commercial properties for sale,” says DTZ Sherry FitzGerald investments director Michelle Jackson. “There has been about €400 million so far this year in asset sales but we’ve probably had a multiple of 10 trying to buy that.”