Johnny Ronan strikes deal to refinance €300m portfolio

Agreement to call halt to sale of Bewley’s Grafton St cafe and Connaught House

Developer Johnny Ronan's Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) is understood to have secured a commitment from a leading bank to refinance a prime property portfolio valued at €300 million.

News of the agreement comes at the same time as Savills readies five of the portfolio’s 12 assets for sale on behalf of receivers appointed by M&G Investments in March. The UK-based investment group is owed €141 million arising from its backing of RGRE’s refinancing of Nama loans in 2015, which allowed the developer to exit the State’s so-called bad bank.

Should RGRE's deal with its new lender proceed as expected, M&G will be repaid in full and joint receivers Michael McAteer and Nicholas O'Dwyer of Grant Thornton will abandon the sales process. Were the agreement to falter however, the developer faces the immediate prospect of five prime properties including Bewley's flagship premises on Grafton Street and Connaught House on Burlington Road being sold with the proceeds being used to repay M&G.

The three other properties being readied for sale comprise Permanent TSB’s branch building at 70 Grafton Street, the premises of handmade cosmetics brand Lush at 116 Grafton Street and Kingram House on Fitzwilliam Place. While the five properties carry a combined guide price of €170 million, or just under 57 per cent of the value attributed to the entire portfolio, each asset would have its own separate sales process with the exception of the three Grafton Street properties which would be offered in one or more lots.


Savills have ascribed an indicative value of €125 million to Connaught House and guide prices of €29 million and €16 million respectively to the Grafton Street portfolio and Kingram House.

Exclusive negotiations

News of RGRE's securing of an agreement to refinance the portfolio comes at the same time as the developer and US fund Fortress Investment Group have entered into exclusive negotiations with Blackstone in relation to the sale for upwards of €600 million of the European headquarter offices RGRE is developing for Salesforce in Dublin's north docklands. While the US private equity giant had expressed its interest also in acquiring the European headquarter offices RGRE is developing for Facebook at Fibonacci Square in Ballsbridge, The Irish Times understands that this scheme will now be offered for sale later this year at a guide price in excess of €500 million through joint agents Eastdil Secured and Cushman & Wakefield.

Fibonacci Square, which is fully let to Facebook on a 25-year lease commencing in 2022, forms part of the social media giant’s wider European headquarter campus in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, comprising 80,825sq m (870,000sq ft) of office space.

Blackstone had been seen as a logical purchaser for the RGRE development following its €395 million acquisition in January of 31,536sq m (339,456sq ft) of office space across the four existing blocks occupied by Facebook to the rear of the Ballsbridge site. The four blocks had been owned by the Serpentine consortium, a syndicate of private individuals and companies assembled by AIB Private Banking and Goodbody Stockbrokers.

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan is Acting Property Editor of The Irish Times