Visitors canoeing on the lake in Center Parcs, close to Ballymahon, with the massive Sub Tropical Swimming Paradise building in the background.

Reports reveal Center Parcs is up for sale

Center Parcs Longford Forest, close to Ballymahon, is up for sale, according to reports.

The company's six forest holiday resorts, five in the UK and one in Ireland, have been put on the market by Brookfield, the Canadian investors who bought the tourism business back in 2015 for around £2.4 billion.

The story, first reported in the Financial Times yesterday, said the business could double their investment and potentialy make between £4 and £5 billion (close to €6 billion).

Brookfield has appointed investment bankers who have been sounding out potential buyers in the past week, the paper said, and it's a development which will be watched closely in the Athlone and Midlands area where Center Parcs is a major employer with close to 1,200 employees locally.

While neither Center Parcs or Brookfield has confirmed the move, the potential sale could be one of the largest ever in the UK and would provide a barometer of the health of the economy and property market should it materialise.

The forest holiday village has proved a major hit in Ireland since it opened in the summer of 2019, with plans in train for a €100m expansion including 198 new lodges on the 160-hectare leisure facility, as well as a new lakeside restaurant and coffee shop and extensions of several existing restaurants and additional staff facilities.

While the expansion plans were approved locally, they were appealed to An Bord Pleanála last autumn and have been stuck in a planning logjam ever since, with a March deadline coming and going without a decision.

The firm previously confirmed that the planned expansion would bring the capacity of the Ballymahon holiday village up to 3,500 when it is full and increase the number of employees by 280.

Accounts reported in the national media for Center Parcs Ireland Ltd, shows that it returned to the black in the year to the end of April 2022. It made an after-tax profit of €7.4 million during the period, as opposed to a loss of €16 million in the previous twelve months, which was heavily impacted by Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

The accounts also show a net book value of €200.6 million on the land and buildings in Ireland, and borrowings of €165.3 million, which is due to be repaid on December 1st, 2023.

The Financial Times reported that the five resorts in the UK were independently valued at £4.1 billion in April based on the value of the real estate alone. In 2022, the entire Center Parcs group recorded a profit of £66m in the year to April 2022 with sales quadrupling to £503m.

Built at a cost of €233 million, the Longford Forest holiday resort in Newcastle Wood, was the biggest single investment in tourism ever in Ireland.

The Westmeath Independent has contacted Center Parcs for comment on the reports.