Aussie investors sought for historic Brighton Pier

Aussie investors sought for historic Brighton Pier
Aussie investors sought for historic Brighton Pier

Australian commercial property investors are being targeted as potential buyers of a historic piece of British Victorian architecture.

The 524-metre, grade 2-listed pier, which juts out from Brighton beach, is being marketed by Ben Allen and Richard Baldwin from GVA Humberts Leisure on behalf of the noble Group, which has owned the pier since 1984.

Brighton Pier has featured in films, television programs and documentaries dating back to 1896 with the likes of Grace Kelly, Bette Davis and Greta Garbo all appearing in scenes set on the landmark. A Midsomer Murders episode, "The Sword of Guillaume", was filmed on Brighton Pier with the House of Horror used as the murder scene.

The asking price is undisclosed but the noble Group will be looking to recoup the £35 million it has invested in the heritage building, which was formerly known as the Palace Pier.

A spokesperson for GVA Humberts Leisure told Property Observer there had been international interest in the pier including from the USA, Russia and Kuwait, and would not rule out interest from Australia.

An advertising campaign is running in The Australian.

Investors will be able to take advantage of a favourable Australian dollar/UK sterling exchange rate with $1 now buying 67 pence.

According to a report by investment property Databank, values of UK commercial real estate rose in 2010 for the first time in four years. Values rose 6.9% compared with a drop of 5.6% in 2009.

Australian investors have kept clear of the UK commercial market in recent times.

According to Rosey McGrath, UK marketing and communications manager at CB Richard Ellis, its research showed that Australian investors were not registering as significant purchasers in the current UK market.

“The last major Australian acquisition from memory was the Australian Future Fund – purchasing a 17.2% stake in Gatwick Airport in December 2010 and in the Bullring Shopping Centre in Birmingham in September 2009,” she says.

The current pier was built by the Marine Palace & Pier Company in 1899 at a cost of £137,000 on the site of an earlier Old Chain Pier, dating back to 1823.

It was designed by R St George Moore, an engineer from London, as an amusement and pleasure emporium complete with filigree arches and kiosks. It was the third pier to be built in Brighton.

Facilities on the pier include 18 themed attractions and rides, two modern amusement arcades, together with retail and entertainment outlets, Horatio's and Victoria's Bars and the recently refurbished Palm Court restaurant.

According to GVA Humberts the pier is ranked alongside Brighton’s pavilion as one of the city’s most important assets, and has served as the catalyst to the resurgence of Brighton’s seafront. At peak season, the pier’s businesses employ more than 300 people.

David Biesterfield, Noble Group’s development director, says: “Over eight million visitors come to Brighton annually and its status as ‘London by the Sea’, the resurgence of British tourism and the forthcoming Olympics represent an exciting opportunity for further increasing the number of visitors to the pier.

"We anticipate a great deal of interest in the sale of this world-renowned asset.”

A train ride from London to Brighton takes under an hour.

The sale of the pier is part of a sale of the entire issued share capital of the Brighton Marine Palace & Pier Company, which was established by Act of Parliament in 1888, to develop and operate the pier.

the noble Group, based in Tyneside in the north-east of England, is one of the UK’s largest amusement arcade operators.

It also owns a wide-ranging commercial property portfolio and has a variety of other business interests.

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer

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