Tycoon seeks investors with at least Â£30m each to expand his European property empire
Sean Mulryan, the Irishman who built Ballymore into one of Europeâ€™s biggest property companies, is on a Â£500m fundraising campaign to finance expansion of his private property empire.
Horseracing fan Mulryan â€” Irelandâ€™s biggest builder â€” has been hit hard by the credit crunch and the slump in property values. But now he wants to raise fresh equity capital from wealthy investors prepared to put in at least Â£30m each in order to get Ballymore building again.
The money would help to finance between five and six new projects. It is understood Ballymore is targeting wealthy funds and professional investors. It has 43 different development projects in its portfolio.
Ballymore has been forced to put on hold a string of high-profile schemes because of the credit crunch â€” including a project in Manchester, which it had hoped would become the tallest residential tower in Europe. Work was halted on the Piccadilly Tower last year after Â£8m was spent laying the foundations.
Friends of Mulryan, Ballymoreâ€™s founder and sole shareholder, say that now the commercial property market has begun to stabilise he wants to raise cash so that he can increase the scale of its development programme tenfold from the last boom.
Ballymore, like its property peers, used to rely heavily on debt finance to fund its schemes. However, many of its Irish bank lenders are restricting new loans, so it has to find alternative sources of capital.
The company is behind some of the most glitzy residential buildings in the UK â€” including the 48-storey Pan Peninsula Tower at Canary Wharf, east London.
The apartments were sold during the boom to wealthy City high-flyers and overseas investors.
Since the credit crunch hit, though, a significant minority of purchasers who bought apartments off-plan are struggling to make their final payments and have formed an action group to try and renegotiate terms with Ballymore. The company has been forced to set up a special unit to deal with the Pan Peninsula Buyersâ€™ Association.
As well as properties in Britain, Ballymore has a large property portfolio overseas, which includes the five-star Kempinski Hybernska hotel in central Prague housed in a 17th century listed building.
The group appears to have survived the credit crunch after cutting jobs and selling off private assets to cut costs. Last autumn it was reported that Mulryan had put 25 racehorses and two helicopters up for sale and decided to share his executive jet with Johnny Depp, the film star, to save money.
A group re-organisation saw about 50 jobs lost. Last year Mulryan stepped up to become executive chairman to focus on courting investors and developing group strategy, with David Brophy appointed group chief executive.
In the past few months the group has continued to seek planning permission for new schemes.
In May, plans were lodged for two towers at the Â£2.5 billion Wood Wharf development in Londonâ€™s Docklands. It is working on the scheme in partnership with British Waterways and Canary Wharf. The first tower is designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli and will be 194 metres tall.
The business was founded in 1982 when Mulryan, who was born in Oran, County Roscommon, was working as a local builder in Kildare. He sold his house, his car and his wifeâ€™s car in order to finance his first development.
Under his stewardship Ballymore has grown from a small company building domestic housing in Ireland to one of Europeâ€™s biggest property development and investment companies.