Friday 20 June 2008

Dublin docklands authority sees surplus cut by 91%

FEWER SALES of development assets and higher regeneration costs resulted in the Dublin Docklands Development Authority's surplus being slashed by 91 per cent to €3.7 million in 2007.

Income from the sale of development assets declined to €30.3 million from €84.8 million in 2006, while expenditure on regeneration projects in the area more than doubled to €15.6 million during the year, according to the authority's annual report, published yesterday.

Commenting on the economic slowdown, chief executive Paul Maloney conceded that the future development of the area would be affected by the economic slowdown but added that he was confident the long-term regeneration would happen. "Yes we are concerned for the long term but we look forward to a turnaround," he said.

The authority is charged with overseeing the regeneration of Dublin's dockland area, which extends from the IFSC on the north quays to Poolbeg, south of the Liffey.

The DDDA has four main development assets, Grand Canal Harbour, the CHQ building, land in the Poolbeg peninsula and the former Readymix site.

CHQ in the IFSC opened to retailers last November following a €40 million restoration and is anchored by furniture retailer Meadows Byrne. The centre has suffered from the fall-off in consumer buying this year, Mr Maloney said.

"The first few months of this year have been very difficult," he said. "Retail sales across the board have been difficult." Mr Maloney said he was satisfied with the performance of CHQ to date, especially as its marketing campaign had yet to be launched.

"It can take up to two years for a shopping centre to establish itself, just look at the likes of Dundrum," he told The Irish Times. "We're very satisfied with how it is performing in the current market."

Mr Maloney said 70 per cent of the ground floor at CHQ has been let and he expects it to be fully occupied by the year's end. The centre is operating debt free.

In a bid to stimulate interest from retailers, many shops have received significant discounts on their rents and some are even operating rent free.

On construction activity, Mr Maloney said very few residential planning applications were currently being lodged due to the tougher economic backdrop.

The authority owns 26 per cent of the former Irish Glass site in Ringsend in a joint venture with builder Bernard McNamara and financier Derek Quinlan.

It spent €36 million in cash on this transaction last year. Mr Maloney said remediation works at the site have started and this would cost it about €9 million.

He said the authority and its joint venture partners were consulting with local interest groups about the redevelopment of the Ringsend site. "It's an investment right now but we're confident of making it work," he said.

The authority's staff numbers rose last year from 35 to 46, with its payroll costs increasing to €3.9 million from €3.2 million in 2006.

Its investment properties were revalued in 2007, resulting in a gain of €24 million. The authority had a net pension liability of €7.3 million at the end of 2007, up from €6.7 million a year earlier.

Irish Times

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