Posted on Thursday 5 April 2012 by Ulster Business

Microsoft

All of Belfast’s available grade A office space combined would be needed to meet one single requirement issued in Dublin this week, according to a leading local property agent.

Lisney's David McNellis said that Belfast has a total of around 400,000 sq ft of grade A office space available, the same amount of space Microsoft is currently seeking to acquire in one Dublin deal.

McNellis said this highlights the disparity between the two markets and believes the gap exists almost entirely because of the difference in corporation tax levied.

Microsoft's requirement in Dublin shows how much potential investment Northern Ireland is missing out on because of its uncompetitive tax rate, the property expert added.

“The Executive and its agencies have done a good job attracting investment in recent years, with a number of notable inward investment deals happening. But the fact is that they have effectively been selling Northern Ireland with one hand tied behind their back,” he said.

"The investment that Northern Ireland is achieving is small compared to what is happening in the south. If we could compete on a more even footing and attract even a modest amount of this investment north of the border, it would have a transformational impact on our economy.”

The Lisney director said US companies were involved in almost 40 per cent of office purchases or leases in Dublin in 2011. This is up from just over 20 per cent in 2007. And the expectation is that the level of activity will only increase during 2012.

“The fact is that the Republic of Ireland remains a significant competitor for Northern Ireland in terms of securing major occupiers for office and industrial space, despite rents and other costs in Northern Ireland being significantly lower. If corporation tax is not going to be reduced, quite simply, it’s very hard to see how Northern Ireland can compete for significant investment with our neighbours in the south,” he added.

Microsoft, currently based in Sandyford, wants a campus-style Irish headquarters with a range of buildings extending to 37,160sq m (400,000sq ft) in the same general area of south Dublin. This is the largest-ever request for office accommodation to rent anywhere in Ireland.

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