DARK HORSE HSBC TAKES RETAIL SITE IN LATE BID

HSBC is committed to the City of London – for its latest retail opening, at least.

The Capitalist hears the bank has gazumped a well-known restaurateur to emerge as the new tenant at 1 Bishopsgate, after offering a far higher, undisclosed, sum to turn the disused property into a “premier suite” retail bank in time for the Olympics.

Two existing HSBC branches near the Bishopsgate site will be closed and merged into the luxury City branch, which will occupy 9,807 sq ft over three floors within walking distance of Lloyd’s, the Gherkin and the Heron.

Competitive bids for the site were submitted before Christmas, and the ink was all but dry on the legal agreement with the restaurant when HSBC this month entered dealings at the eleventh hour with its “extraordinary” offer to the freeholder.

That unidentified owner, who bought the property from fund manager Liverpool Victoria last month, is a private client of Morgan Capital Partners, which has let the prime retail unit to the bank on a 15-year lease. “We had every intention of leasing 1 Bishopsgate to a high-profile restaurateur,” said Nathan Wogman of Shelley Sandzer, the property agent on the deal. “But then in came HSBC with an offer we couldn’t refuse.”

QATARIS’ BELFRY BID
MEANWHILE, Qatari investors are looking to get their paws on The Belfry, the spiritual home of the Ryder Cup.

“We expect significant international interest,” said agent George Nicholas of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels when the Midlands resort formerly owned by Ireland’s debt-laden Quinn Group was put up for sale on 16 January.

He’s not wrong. The Capitalist hears a Qatari “government entity” has joined the reported Asian bidders by approaching Ross Marshall, the owner of tour operator Your Golf Travel, about putting together a consortium to take control of the £90m conference, leisure and golf facility.

The Qataris are keen to find partners with relevant distribution credentials to help them secure the prize asset – and YGT, which has a quarter of the UK’s four million golfers in its contacts book and runs a spin-off spa firm, ticks that box.

The deadline for bids, says Nicholas, is the end of February. “Unless sold prior.”

SLOW BURNS
BLAME the pesky World Economic Forum, says Green’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar in St James’s, but Burns Night bookings this year were “slower than usual”.

Doing his bit to boost the takings, however, was one director at PwC, who treated three clients to a £729 Burns Night blowout – with an extra two haggis on top of the traditional set menu – to the strains of piper Boyd Matthews.

The Capitalist agreed not to name the M&A tax specialist concerned – it is just “PwC and friends” – but it is permitted to say the evening ended with double gin and tonics at Claridges at 2am. Repeat business all round!

CIRCUIT TRAINING
IT’S DOWNHILL all the way from here for Centrica and Deloitte, which are the first two City teams to sign up to the CARE Olympic Cycle Challenge.

The route of the fundraising cycle ride on Saturday 23 June is based on the Surrey and London suburbs leg of the official Olympic route, setting off from Richmond Park and finishing near Putney after passing through the South Downs.

The “short” route is a mere 104km; the more athletic can attempt the maximum distance of 208km, comparable to an Olympic course.

To sign up – bearing in mind the minimum fundraising target of £150 for poverty charity Care International, please see www.carechallenge.org.uk/olympic