The sale of NAMA properties in the province is a massive vote of confidence in the future and a chance to take the property market ‘off hold’ Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said yesterday.
In his first detailed comment since the annoucement that NAMA’s Northern Ireland portfolio had been sold to the US investment firm Cerberus Capital Management, Mr Hamilton said the deal offered a real opportunity.
“The construction sector in Northern Ireland suffered like no other during the downturn and even though we have entered economic recovery, we understand that the sector will be slower to get back on its feet than others,” he said.
Among the many factors contributing to that scenario, he said, were the bursting of the property bubble, a reduction in public spending on infrastructure, the lack of lending from the the banks and a “glut” of distressed assets bound up in entities like NAMA.
However, he said the NAMA deal represented by far the biggest positive boost and indication that things were beginning to improve.
“A deal of this magnitude is, in itself, a massive vote of confidence in the Northern Ireland economy,” he said.
“Whilst we do not know what Cerberus paid for the portfolio, we can be certain that this is the biggest single investment in our history.
“The real opportunity, though, lies in the fact that this deal can free up assets which, because they were caught up in NAMA their development potential was - in most cases - put on hold.
“A firm like Cerberus, which takes a long term view and has the scale to invest in its newly purchased assets to realise their value, is exactly what Northern Ireland needs. This deal could be the shot in the arm for our construction sector that we so badly need.
“NAMA’s Northern Ireland portfolio certainly contains assets with considerable development potential. In housing, offices and retail, there are opportunities everywhere.
This deal can unlock those opportunities and allow NI to develop and grow and, in the process, provide a much needed stimulus for the local construction industry. Coupled with increasing expenditure on infrastructure by the Executive, there is the hope that better days lie ahead for the construction sector.”