NEWS PROPERTY

The NSW pub market was yesterday bolstered by the sale of the western Sydney watering house the Royal Hotel in Richmond to pub veteran Peter Wynne in an $18 million deal. HTL Property director Andrew Jolliffe said it was the ninth major NSW hotel sale since June 30 and augured well for pub sales for the remainder of the year. A total of $900m worth of pubs sold in the last financial year, according to Mr Jolliffe, who added that in the past two weeks a total of $132.5m hotels had already changed hands. It started two weeks ago with pub mogul Arthur Laundy buying The Oxford Hotel in Drummoyne for just under $42m, with the latest sale being the popular Royal Hotel in Richmond, Mr Jolliffe said. The Royal Hotel on a 1760sq m site sports 29 pokies and a valuable 3am liquor licence with early opener flexibility. Its buyer, Mr Wynne, previously owned the highly popular Martin Place Bar in the Sydney CBD that he sold in order to make way for a new metro train station. Mr Wynne has been actively pursuing pub opportunities of late, buying The Royal Hotel in an off-market deal from publican Mal Russell, who is leaving the industry, through HTL agents Dan Dragicevich and Sam Handy. HTL Property predicts a further tightening of freehold yields.

Tasmania’s biggest ski field – with a total 7 lifts – is on sale with a price tag of $1.75 million after the family owning it for the last 46 years decided to sell, rather than make the upgrade needed to turn it into a year-round tourism attraction. Ben Lomond Ski Field, with T-Bars and Pomas that fall about 100 metres and run for a maximum 500 metres, focuses on the beginner and intermediate market, but could cater to summer hikers and mountain bike riders with the addition of another chairlift, director Kate Williams said. The relatively unrestricted lease first given to Ms Williams’ late father Eryl in the 1970s permits new lifts and lift lines on the ski field within Ben Lomond National Park and is well-placed to fit from Tasmania’s surging popularity among the growing Asian and global market for luxury and natural experiences, she said. “It was a relatively good opportunity while that focus was there for someone to embrace it and take the mountain further by having summer usage,” she said. The Ben Lomond ski operation and lease, which has run for 45 years and is up for renewal within the next decade, is separate from the ski school and ski hire businesses run by another family, and is also separate from the Ben Lomond Alpine Hotel that burnt down last year and is owned by a different family. The Williams family also has a stake in the separate snow-making and snow-grooming business that operates at the ski field. A previous push to sell the businesses together in 2016 failed to progress for what Ms Williams called “operator issues.” While her family’s bid to sell the ski operation was independent of the other owners, her move could prompt them to sell, she said. “That would be up to them to take it further,” Ms Williams said. The three owners could potentially make more from a collective sale of their assets than piecemeal, but the different businesses started at different times and are bound by difference licence arrangements and conditions. “We all have different licence agreements,” she said. “People have to work within that.” The Apple Isle site southeast of the state’s second-largest city is the pointy tip of a bigger shakeup of a global ski industry that is prompting larger operators to race for scale to build their portfolios of resort offerings for a new market of consumers from fast-growing economies such as China. The growing appetite for global ski assets prompted Melbourne’s Rich List Grollo family, which owns the Mt Buller Ski Resort, to put up for sale the 24-suite Kooroora Hotel component of a mixed-use development currently under construction at the Victorian ski resort. The hotel which carries price expectations of more than $7 million is, like the Ben Lomond ski operation, being marketed by agent John Castran. In February, Vail Resorts confirmed its acquisition for $174 million of Victoria’s Falls Creek and Hotham resorts, expanding an Australian portfolio that already includes Perisher in NSW.

Accommodation provider Benbrell has bought a corner site property at 215-217 Parramatta Road in Haberfield for $8.5 million from a local property developer, with plans to put up a 76-room hotel. This is the first entry into the Sydney market for Benbrell which runs accommodation in Western Australia and Queensland. Ray White and Knight Frank sold the 1465sq m corner sites.

Sydney’s iconic hotel the Harbour View Hotel has been sold in less than a week for a reported $12 million. The hotel sold after just five days, having come to the market for the first time in 20 years. The private outgoing owners are said to be retiring and this buy represents the new owners’ first hotel investment.

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BPM and the Uniting Church has sold an eight-storey office building in central Melbourne with approval for a hotel development. The tower at 130 Little Collins Street, the Uniting Church Centre, sold to Jeff Xu’s Golden Age Group along with a permit for a 27-storey Elenberg Fraser-designed hotel. The permit comes courtesy on a joint venture which the Uniting Church struck over the site in 2015 with developer BPM, led by Jonathan Hallinan. The 184-room hotel was originally knocked back by Melbourne Council, but was approved late last year after the church took the case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Owned by the church’s property trust, the existing building comprises a net lettable area of 3,797 square metres, comprising eight levels of office, ground floor retail, a chapel, and 15 car spaces. The Uniting Church moved to offload the building ahead of its move into Charter Hall’s redeveloped Wesley Place tower at 130 Lonsdale Street, due for completion in 2020. The Little Collins Street property was sold with a leaseback to the Uniting Church.

Pub and hotel operator Oscars Hotel Group has added to its large NSW portfolio after buying the Empire Hotel in Annandale for $10.3 million. The Empire Hotel stands on an 803-square-metre corner site at 103 Parramatta Road in Sydney’s west and includes a public bar and bistro, 24 hotel rooms and 16 gaming machines. Property records show the property last changed hands for $4.9 million in December 2009 when the D’Agostino family bought it from the ING Entertainment Fund. It sold at the time with a long-term lease in place to operator Feros Group. Oscars Hotel Group is led by brothers Mario and Bill Gravanis and has a portfolio of more than two dozen hospitality and accommodation venues spread across NSW. Hotels in the portfolio include the Novotel Wollongong Northbeach hotel (bought for about $48 million in 2014) and the Novotel Sydney Brighton Beach (bought for over $100 million in 2015). Pubs in the group include the Bristol Arms in the Sydney CBD and the Como Hotel in Sutherland Shire, which were both acquired in late 2016 from Geoff Dixon and John Singleton’s Australian Pub Fund for a combined $25 million. The sale of the separately held freehold and leasehold to the Empire Hotel was brokered by Nick Butler of JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group. Included in the sale was a two-level commercial office space at the rear of the property. Alongside gaming revenue, Mr Butler said accommodation has more recently become a sought-after, high-margin revenue stream with many hoteliers looking to properly activate hotel rooms. “Fundamentally, the Empire is an exceptionally presented hotel and a great piece of city fringe property with the potential to add more rooms, and clearly an underdone gaming trading opportunity,” he said. JLL national pubs director John Musca said the weight of private and public sector capital into the space was “heavy at the moment as evidenced in high transaction volumes but it is not indiscriminate and based on asset class fundamentals”.

In the mid-19th century the Diggers Rest Hotel was one of Victoria’s busiest pubs. As the name suggests, the hotel, built in 1854, was a stopping point on the road to the diggings, the gold fields around Ballarat, Castlemaine and Bendigo. But a fire destroyed the historic pub in 2008 and Diggers Rest, the township, has been without its watering hole. Its condition is described as “ruinous” on the Victorian Heritage Database. However, a condition of the recently obtained planning permit requires the restoration of four original walls and the chimneys of the 1854 pub. The permit allows for a new pub, restaurant, reception centre, distillery and a 70-plus room hotel. Cropley Commercial’s Gerard Hurry is handling the campaign. The burnt out hotel is on a large 2.67ha site at 1434-1466 Old Calder Highway. It’s in a green wedge zone close to the fast-growing Sunbury area and likely to fetch about $2 million.

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