UK REIT IN €150m PLAN TO BUY UP IRISH CLINICS - A UK property fund is to targeting doctors' surgeries and HSE clinics in a wave of investment in Ireland.

Primary Health Properties (PHP) plans to invest between €100m and €150m in Ireland from spring this year, says the Irish Independent. The Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) owns a network of clinics in the UK and said it is now seeking investments across the Republic. "The primary care premises market is controlled by the NHS in the UK and largely influenced by the HSE in the Republic of Ireland, meaning there is little or no speculative development of new facilities," the REIT said. "Buildings are often located within residential areas which can lead to restricted alternative use potential. "Against this, initial lease terms are longer than in general commercial markets, more than 20 years on average and locally provided healthcare will continue to be a necessity for the foreseeable future," it said. While the HSE is unlikely to sell significant chunks of its property portfolio, PHP managing director Harry Hyman told the Irish Independent that the fund is targeting diagnosis clinics and some GPs. It is also looking at developing sites that will be leased to the HSE or other bluechip tenants.

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O’FLYNN SAYS 'HOUSING CRISIS' IS CENTRAL BANK'S FAULT - One of Ireland’s biggest developers has said the country is in the middle of a “housing crisis” partly due to Central Bank restrictions on mortgage lending.

Cork developer Michael O’Flynn, in an interview with The Irish Times, says three potential house purchasers in his latest scheme in Lucan, Dublin, asked for their deposits to be returned as they could not meet the Central Bank’s rules. “We’ve lost sales because of it. The blunt reality is that the concept of the Central Bank instrument was good but the application and the timing of it [January 2015] was wrong.” He says Central Bank governor Philip Lane’s plan to review the rules later this year had not helped the situation. “Telling people in this country that you’re going to do something either causes a rush to buy, or causes a pause. People are holding back thinking they’ll be able to buy a different type of house [when the review is concluded]. So it’s serving no purpose.” Central Bank rules require first-time buyers to have a deposit of 10% for the first €220,000 of a house price and 20% on the balance. Mr O’Flynn says the cap needs to be raised to €300,000 in Dublin as it is “limiting lending”. 

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450-METRE STRETCH OF ROAD TO BE FINISHED BY SHANNON GROUP SEVEN YEARS LATER IN CLARE - A ‘road to nowhere’ built at a cost of €3.7m that has lain idle for the past seven years is to be finally completed.

This follows the Shannon Group yesterday confirming that it is shortly to lodge a planning application to finish the remaining 200 metres of the road that leads out of the group’s Ennis Information Age Park. The 450-metre stretch of road was abandoned after being completed by Clare County Council in 2009, says the Irish Examiner. The council completed its portion of the road seven years ago. However, no cars or trucks have ever been driven on it due to the now defunct Shannon Development having no money to complete the remaining 200 metres. Now, Clare county engineer Tom Tiernan has confirmed that Shannon Development’s successor, Shannon Commercial Property Enterprises, part of the Shannon Group, is to complete the road. The work is expected to provide a boost to the adjoining Information Age Park that has failed to deliver on Shannon Development’s initial promise of 4,000 jobs at the park. Mr Tiernan said the work will be accompanied by completion works on a relief road by Clare County Council.

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TOP LONDON LAWYERS CHARGE £1,000 AN HOUR, STUDY FINDS - Partners at top London law firms are charging as much as £1,000 an hour - the highest rate ever recorded, according to researchers.

Hourly rates for partners at leading commercial law firms have risen in real terms from as much as £598 in 2003 to at least £775 an hour with some lawyers charging £1,000 an hour, a report from the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank found. Jim Diamond, a UK legal cost analyst who compiled the study, said the biggest firms are now charging almost the same figure - except in sterling - as their US counterparts. He claims the high costs could restrict access to justice particularly for small business clients who can be deterred from bringing cases. The report points to three factors that have pushed up billing rates, writes the Financial Times. These include the increasing complexity of the UK tax and legal systems, which has prompted more clients to seek advice. The British tax code has more than trebled in size since 1997 and is now 22,000 pages long. The study also says lack of transparency by firms on legal costs and the similarity in hourly rates charged by top firms has contributed to rising billable rates. Rates charged by partners in City firms rose to up to £700 an hour in 2007 bolstered by a flurry of M&A deals before rates fell to £450 an hour in 2009, according to the report.