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Nama set for loan sale as AIB nears €300m BTL deal

The National Asset Management Agency is preparing to sell a portfolio of loans tied to the late Cork developer Owen O’Callaghan.

It is understood a formal auction for the partially-peforming loans, bundled together under the name Project Lee, could be underway by May or June.

The Irish Independent has established that this latest sell-off of comes as contenders for AIB’s Project Cyprus portfolio move in to the second round of bidding.

While both of the loan bundles are relatively small compared to the multi-billion portfolio sales seen in recent years, each will be closely watched for evidence of improving sentiment about the outlook for Ireland’s real estate market.

Project Cyprus also marks the first major sale of non-performing residential loans by a domestic bank. The book of buy-to-let mortgages, is understood to have a face value of close to €300m.

Several global debt funds have cast an eye over the assets, including Lone Star and Cerberus Asset Management.

Grant Thornton is advising on the sale.

According to sources, the Project Lee loans have a similar face value – estimated at about €250m.

Nama initially intended to offload O’Callaghan’s impaired mortgages in 2015 but a thicket of legal complexities forced a lengthy delay.

The revived sale is expected to attract a swathe of investors given the revival in commercial real estate values.

Two years ago, when Nama first unveiled plans to sell off the portfolio, Owen O’Callaghan said the market would view the loans “very positively”. He insisted: “These loans have always been and are fully performing and the suite of assets covered by the loans which are now for sale are amongst the best performing retail and commercial assets in the country.”Owen O’Callaghan – one of boom-time Ireland’s most prolific retail park developers – died earlier this year after a short illness.

His company, O’Callaghan Properties, built Cork’s Merchant’s Quay Shopping Centre, Dublin’s Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, and Athlone’s Golden Island development.

News of the looming debt sales come as Navigation Square – a €90m development by O’Callaghan Properties in Cork city’s vast docklands – received a green light after An Bord Pleanála said all appeals had been withdrawn.

The project was the brainchild of the late developer, his son and current head of O’Callaghan Properties, Brian O’Callaghan, hailed this week’s planning news as “a great day for Cork and for the region”.
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