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M&S Lifestore site sold for a second time.

Byline: By Nigel Stirling

A property company backed by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has sold the former Marks & Spencer Lifestore site in Gateshead for pounds 49m ( more than pounds 5m more than it paid for it four months ago.

The 150,000sqft property freehold, which Active Asset Investment Management bought from Marks & Spencer in July, has been sold to a joint venture comprising Insight Investment Management and a consortium of Indian private investors represented by London-based agent BCM.

The price, which represents a net initial yield of 5.75%, is pounds 1m above the pounds 48m guide price Active Asset Investment Management instructed London-based agent Donaldsons to put the property on the market for three months ago.

The sale, completed on Monday, represents a quick turnaround for Active Asset Investment Management which first approached M&S about buying the property at the beginning of this year.

M&S put the vacant property on the market after dumping its Lifestore format late last year. The property company teamed up with developer Bride Hall to sign up Danish furniture retailer Ilva for a 20-year lease for the store with a passing rent of pounds 2.85m per annum, or pounds 26 per sq ft.

Insight property director Nick Montgomery said the joint venture had no immediate plans for the property which is being refurbished for Ilva to begin occupation in December. The lease is subject to five-yearly rent reviews. "We are very much investors and the property is in a good location and we are confident that Ilva will be a strongly performing tenant which will offer good quality furniture for a better price than a lot of UK retailers can.

"The yield is a lot higher than the average yield for retail park bulky goods stores at the moment, which is around 4%," Mr Montgomery said.

M&S acquired the 7.2 acre site in 2001 from the estate of the Church Commissioners before building the up-market homeware and furniture store which was dumped after proving a resounding disaster.

Ilva plans to open at least 20 stores in the UK, with more to follow in Germany, France and Spain. It is in negotiations to acquire a distribution depot in Darlington which will service the Gateshead store and a store in Manchester which it is currently developing.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 16, 2005
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