Causeway Asset Management

Belfast Development Forum Could Provide Boost in Investor Confidence

Alastair Luke Planning

As a multi-disciplinary real estate investment company in Belfast, Causeway Asset Management is involved in some of the city’s key development projects, including Lanyon Central. Property Director Damian Mitchell, explores what needs to happen next to keep the city on the radar of the world’s top investors.

Much has changed since MIPIM 2016, particularly when we consider the context we are all working in now. Last year Brexit and Trump both seemed like unlikely outcomes and yet, 365 days later, we are reacting to a fundamental shift in the investment landscape, from one of great optimism to one of uncertainty.

Northern Ireland is facing more questions than most as it awaits clarification on how it will interact with the rest of Europe and its neighbour in the Republic of Ireland.

We know that uncertainty can often be the great enemy of investment and MIPIM 2017 will need to see a Belfast office market which is continuing to grow and develop despite these conditions. The strong fundamentals of Belfast’s market must be highlighted by all stakeholders.

The uncertainty around Northern Ireland’s relationship with Europe has generated a ‘wait and see’ approach from many funding partners. This has in turn created a pause in the funding streams available for large scale Grade A office development.

We are calling for a bridge in the funding gap for the development of Grade A office space in Belfast and we believe that this can be achieved through a joined up approach between the public and private sector.

Causeway Asset Management feels that activity of this nature could act as a catalyst for future development. The core fundamentals of the market remain strong. Belfast has competitive occupational costs, a leading education system creating a highly skilled workforce and an expected drop in the rate of corporation tax to 12.5% in 2018 which all provide attractive propositions to any international company seeking a foreign capital city to base themselves in.

In order to act as a joined up team Causeway Asset Management believes that there should be a development forum created which is made up of representatives from all of the stakeholders in the Belfast office market. This would include key people from the public and private sector from organisations such as Invest NI, Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Executive, asset managers, developers, professional advisors and funders. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Together, this group could help each other to push Belfast forward by jointly attending events such as MIPIM but also ensuring that we continue to share information and ideas by meeting regularly.

If developers and asset managers are kept up to date with the activities of organisations such as Invest NI they will be better equipped to deliver projects in direct response to the demand being shown by foreign investors. This would enable us to tailor developments to best suit the needs of international companies and help give confidence to our funding partners to show them how genuine and real the demand is.

Invest NI, Northern Ireland Executive, and Belfast City Council would also benefit from having formal dialogue with the developers and asset managers so that they are kept up to date on the progress of all planned developments. This would allow them to better brief international investors on what is in the pipeline regarding office space in Belfast and how that space can be tailored to best suit their needs.

Causeway Asset Management believes that developing this forum at the earliest opportunity would support confidence to invest in Belfast.

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