FL Partners signs deal to develop Florida site
05 February 2017

FL Partners signs deal to develop Florida site

FL Partners, which last week swooped to complete the acquisition of one of the UK’s biggest construction recruiters, has signed a joint venture with a Canadian house-builder to develop a large land bank in Florida.

FL principals Peter Crowley and Neil Hughes agreed to buy two adjoining residential development land banks, known as Starwood and Vista Park, in September 2014. Based in southeast Orlando, the land banks cover 4,000 acres and have planning permission for 7,000 residential units.

Mattamy Homes, Canada’s biggest house-builder, has now agreed to take an equity stake in the Starwood site, and signed a partnership agreement with FL and local partners covering the future development of the land.

FL Partners, which during the boom engineered the buyout of yacht maker Sunseeker and sports newspaper the Racing Post, is developing an interest in the building sector.

Last week funds managed by FL agreed to buy Potensis, which provides temporary and permanent staff to house-building, social housing and commercial construction sectors in the UK. Crowley said the intention was for Potensis, which is headed by Belfast man Steven Kirkpatrick, to seek out bolt-on acquisitions and consolidate a fragmented market.

The company, which makes profits of close to £5m (€5.8m) a year, is also looking to expand internationally.

Crowley said discussions with Potensis stalled last year following the Brexit referendum result. Quoted house-builders, a key part of the Potensis client base, suffered badly in the wake of the vote, only to recover strongly.

House-building is now expected to benefit from any UK government stimulus programme framed as a response to Brexit. Even in the absence of that support, Crowley said, the UK construction sector was facing severe skills shortages.

Crowley said that the deal, which is also being backed by the Scottish millionaire Brian Souter, covered a number of FL Partners’ investment criteria. It was a profitable company, he said, with strong momentum and an excellent management team.

Kirkpatrick is a former senior executive at Cordant Recruitment and Adecco.

FL last year backed McGinnis, a Northern Ireland house-builder, in the purchase of loans from the US investment fund Cerberus. The loans, secured on eight residential development sites in the UK and Ireland, formed part of Nama’s Project Eagle portfolio sale. The buyout was backed by Earlsfort Capital, a London-based real estate lender headed by Irish financiers Fergal Feeney and Paul Brophy.

Apart from selling Sunseeker and Racing Post, FL Partners also exited the engineering company Ata Group and UTV. It remains a shareholder in Dublin bed manufacturer Kaymed. It also ran the rule over AA Ireland, the insurance and car assist company.

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