The owner of Dublin’s second-biggest port operator is facing a crisis at its separate investment in British shopping centre owner Intu Properties.
Stock market-listed Intu warned yesterday that its shopping centres across the UK may close amid crunch talks with lenders. The news prompted a decline in Intu’s already battered share price that pushed the market value of the business to just £59m. A takeover bid from Dundrum Town Centre owner Hammerson just over two years ago valued Intu at £3.4bn.
Intu’s biggest shareholder is Peel Group, with a near 25pc stake.
Peel Group in turn owns and operates Marine Terminals, a port operation on the south side of the Liffey in Dublin that handles almost one in five containers shipped into Ireland. Marine Terminals sits across from the State-owned Dublin Port on the opposite bank of the Liffey’s mouth.
The southside terminal is located beside the Irish Glass Bottle site which is set to be developed for housing. The neighbouring port and other industrial sites nearby have also long been coveted by developers.
Earlier this year, Peel Ports – which is part-owned by billionaire John Whittaker and by Deutsche Bank investment arm DWS – agreed to sell 25pc of the business to AustralianSuper, a pension fund.
Yesterday, the port operator declined to comment on whether the Dublin operations could be considered in any possible asset sale as a result of the situation at Intu.
The shopping centre owner is trying to thrash out an agreement with lenders before Friday, when covenant tests are due on its debt.
Yesterday, Intu warned that its shopping centres may have to close if it calls in KPMG as administrator, a type of insolvency protection.
Intu confirmed KPMG is on standby but said it hopes to arrange a so-called ‘standstill agreement’ with lenders.
It said that if it cannot reach an agreement and is placed in administration, without critical upfront funding from its lenders “there is a risk that centres may have to close for a period”. An attempt to secure equity from shareholders, including Peel, fell through earlier in the year.
Intu assets include the Trafford Centre in Manchester – bought from Peel Group in 2011 – and more than a dozen other shopping centres in the UK and Spain.