2014 was a busy year in the hotel transaction market and 2015 is looking like it will surpass last year's outcome already. 

Tom Barrett, Director of Hotels and leisure at Savills said that at the mid-point of last year, they were looking at hotel transaction values of the order of €350-400m, but it turned out to be €440m with almost 60 properties changing hands. "There are a lot of domestic players in the market, often in association with international players and money. There's a lot of American money, some UK money and some from further afield," Mr Barrett said. 

The property consultant said one of the features of the market in the past few years has been the consolidation of brands here. "It's starting again. We had a lot of brands in the mid-market at the beginning of the decade, like Best Western and Quality Hotels. Then, at the height of the boom, we saw the arrival of the Four Seasons, Ritz and Sheraton groups - the higher end brands - which were sometimes inappropriate for the location and the product," he explained. "Now we've new owners and new brands coming in, and we have domestic Irish brands and owners, like Dalata, which is the owner of the Maldron brand and they're developing the Clayton brand which they are rolling out across 13 hotels."

Tom Barrett said occupancy and room rates were on the increase and had been for the past five years. "We're getting to 80% occupancy in Dublin City Centre and room rates are growing too. They're on the increase in the country also where hotel owners are benefiting from growth in the tourism sector." He said building had started again and there were more hotels in the planning phase but that it was still cheaper to buy than to build. "We're still at the stage where buyers are purchasing below replacement cost value, especially outside of Dublin. But building is happening. We've two hotels in development, more are in planning, and extensions are happening," he concluded.

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MORNING BRIEFS -  Ulster Bank has reported an operating profit of €69m for the first three months of the year. That is up from €10m in the same period last year. The bank said this reflects improved deposit margins, stable loan product pricing and growth in new lending volumes. The bank reported no net impairment charge for the quarter.

***  British Airways-owner IAG has reported a quarterly operating profit of €25m. That compared to the loss of €150m it made last year and analyst consensus forecasts for a loss of €3m. Performance at the group, which is in the process of trying to buy Aer Lingus, was helped by lower fuel costs and an improvement in performance across its three airlines.

*** The tax treatment of entrepreneurs here has come in for strong criticism from the newly elected President of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland. Delivering his inaugural address last night, Brian Purcell said people with ideas would be better off setting up their businesses in the UK or the US than here. There was evidence that some were opting to do that, he added. Mr Purcell called for a major overhaul of the taxation system to improve the incentives for entrepreneurs to take the risks necessary to set-up and grow businesses.

*** The US Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged at the end of its two day policy meeting last night. The lack of movement came as no surprise but the Fed has indicated that it will raise rates soon, as long as the US economy continues to grow. But there was little evidence of that in the first three months because first quatter growth came in at a mere 0.2%, well below expectations. The Fed said the slow rate of growth in the first quarter was down to "transitory factors" and that expansion would continue.

*** Dublin based generic drug maker Perrigo is understood to have rejected a sweetened merger proposal from Mylan. Mylan's latest offer, worth $34.1 billion, comprised $75 in cash and 2.3 of its shares for each Perrigo share, up from a previous offer of $60 in cash and 2.2 shares. It is believed Mylan's pursuit of Perrigo is an attempt to fend off an approach from Israeli drugmaker Teva, which is trying to take over Mylan.