Tuesday 9 June 2009

Farmers battle it out for estate

LAST WEEK’S sale of the Castle Annaghs estate in south Co Kilkenny for €6.075 million – almost €10 million less than the original €16 million asking price – “reflects the realities of the market” according to the auctioneer.

Anne Carton, of New Ross firm PN OGorman, said the price of about €11,000 per acre for the land “reflects the realities of the market” and recalled auctions a few years ago “when men in hard hats were bidding €30,000 to €40,000 per acre”.

The 929sq m (10,000sq ft) Georgian house on 550 acres of agricultural land with two miles of River Barrow frontage was initially offered for sale by tender in spring last year for €16 million. A sale was agreed to an Irish dairy farmer for a rumoured €9.2 million last summer but the deal fell apart. The subsequent banking crisis, economic downturn and collapse in property prices resulted in the owner reducing the price by an extraordinary €8.5 million.

The AMV ahead of last Friday’s public auction was just €7.5 million but, in the end, not even that figure was achieved. The successful bid of just over €6 million represents a 75 per cent drop from the original asking price.

Bidders from as far afield as Donegal and Cork had crowded into the packed sale room at the Mount Brandon Hotel in New Ross.

Anne Carton launched proceedings by noting the good weather and promising the many farmers present that she’d have them “out by 4 o’clock to get back to the silage” but the sale dragged on for half-an-hour longer.

No member of the wealthy German family, the Jebens, who own the estate through a Liechtenstein-registered company, Catanga, was present.

The opening bid of €3 million was made by a north Tipperary farmer who later confirmed to The Irish Times that his “limit was €5 million”. The auction advanced slowly and the hammer eventually came down at 4.25pm when a Donegal farmer was finally outbid by Liam Sheily from west Cork. The dairy farmer said “it was a big price to pay” before he left the room to call his family and sign the sale documents.

Ms Carton later confirmed that “all the bidders were farmers” which “proves that there’s still a future in farming”. A number of local farmers who own land adjoining the estate had attended the sale as observers. One said he “would love to have bought it but would need to have won the Lotto”. However, he was “pleased” that it had been bought by an Irish farmer.

The new owner inherits a large EU Single Farm Payment entitlement which comes with the land as well as an annual milk quota of 174,000 gallons.

The Jebens, who live in Hamburg and bought the property for just £60,000 in 1962, were said to be “delighted” by the sale. They never lived on the estate, which was run by a farm manager, but frequently visited during the summer months.

In 2007, a planning application to convert the house into a hotel and construct 75 apartments, 30 detached houses and a golf course on the estate was rejected by An Bord Pleanála despite having earlier been approved by Kilkenny County Council.

Irish Times


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