UAE companies and wealthy individuals are eyeing up Irish banks’ distressed real-estate assets according to financial advisory firm Grant Thornton.

“We have a number of clients, who are currently looking to acquire Irish banks’ distressed property assets such as hotels,” says David Fisher, chief executive of Grant Thornton in the Middle East.

“It all depends on what happens with Ireland’s banking crisis, either they’ll get restructured or sold off, but if it’s the latter then we have clients who are interested.”       

Debt-laden Irish banks are currently looking to dispose of real estate and hospitality sector assets in order to drum up enough capital to meet their liquidity requirements and stave off nationalisation.

“These are very attractive acquisitions for UAE companies, who have cash and like property assets,” added Fisher.

“We want to encourage our clients to take advantage of these opportunities, while valuations are more reasonable. A couple of our larger family businesses are keen to make acquisitions if the price is right.”

Fisher said regional clients favour property assets because they are real assets that do not require a huge amount of management afterwards.

Grant Thornton’s previous clients include UK luxury department store Harrods, which was acquired by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the Qatari sovereign wealth fund, for around $2.3bn in May.          

Fisher says the firm is also working on the disposal of a “cash-rich, quite large well-known business”, which is a subsidiary of a company listed outside of the UAE, but which operates within the emirates.

“We think it should attract a very good price and we’ll be announcing that to the market soon.”