THEY are Cash Rich, Irish, and Seeking Property and there are now so many that the English have come up with an acronym for them.
Property analysts have started dubbing Irish property tycoons and investment companies “CRISPYs“.
And so much money is now being spent by men like tycoons Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett – who are behind this week’s €594.5 million purchase of iconic London landmark Battersea Power Station – that the cash is actually helping boost the English economy.
DTZ – one of the world’s largest real estate advisers – says Ireland has overtaken the United States as the single biggest cross-border investor into UK commercial property, with 75% of the money coming from private investors.
As well as corporate institutions, the firm says private developers like Derek Quinlin, Dermot Desmond and John Magnier accounted for almost 22% – €4 billion – of the total €18.2 billion value of overseas purchases in 2005.
The biggest buys of the year were Quinlan’s €802 million purchase of 3.4 acres of prime Knightsbridge real estate, Anglo Irish Assurance’s €326 million purchase of Croydon’s Whitgit Shopping Centre and Evans Randall’s €260 million purchase of London’s 250 Bishopsgate building. But the scale of the impact of purchases by Irish developers goes way beyond the initial price paid.For example, Ronan and Barrett’s development of Battersea Power Station is likely to lead to the creation of more than 4,000 jobs and cost an additional sum of around €2.9 billion over 5-10 years.The acronym CRISPY – Cash Rich Irish Seeking PropertY – first started being used by property industry insiders last year after a string of purchases by Derek Quinlan – which include the Berkeley and Savoy hotels for €1.1 billion, and the €32.6 million Donna Karan shop in Old Bond Street.But it finally hit the national headlines this week – changing into CRISPI (Cash Rich Irish Seeking Property Investments) after Ronan and Barrett’s Battersea deal.Theirs is the latest of a raft of deals by a growing group of developers that include Sean Mulryan – who had planned to bid €891 million for the Battersea Power Station but walked away because of planning restrictions on the amount of private housing permitted on the site – and The Belfry owner Sean Quinn.
Others include 36-year-old Aidan Brooks, whose purchases over the years have included the €326 million Uniliver offices in London’s Westminster, a €56.4 million Home Office building near Parliament Square and Gucci’s €7.4 million shop in posh Mayfair.
Samantha McClary, news editor at the UK property industry “bible” Estates Gazette, said last night: “Over the last few years, Irish developers have really started buying up large amounts of UK property and we started noticing agents referring to them as CRISPYs.
“It’s a term of endearment and marks a complete shift in attitude towards the Irish from the days decades ago when you were more likely to find Irishmen building rather than owning such prime real estate.
“The joke now is that if you don’t actually know who is behind a property deal in the UK, you just say there is an Irish person involved because nowadays, there tends to be an Irish investor lurking somewhere in the deal.”
Trevor Gill, Associate Director, International Investment at DTZ Sherry Fitzgerald, said: “Whilst some Irish investors are looking elsewhere for commercial property investments due to the recent movement in yields, overall there appears to be little sign of a fall off in demand from Irish Investors who are looking to take advantage the growth prospects for London.
“The drivers for this demand continue to include the positive rental growth story for the UK, a lack of available product in the Irish market, the availability of finance from Irish lending institutions for UK property transactions and a familiar market.”
Richard Holberton, from leading real estate specialists CB Richard Ellis added: “Irish investors have accounted for nearly 10% of Central London office investment acquisitions in the past two years.
“While the combination of falling investment yields and increases in the cost of borrowing is something of a deterrent for highly-geared purchasers, Irish investors remain a significant presence in the market.”