September 26, 2023

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Man Palms’ Annington Properties gears up for authorized battle with UK authorities

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An organization managed by billionaire Man Palms will launch a Excessive Courtroom battle on Monday in a bid to dam the UK authorities from unwinding one in all its most expensive privatisation offers involving tens of 1000’s of properties within the Ministry of Defence’s housing portfolio.

The judicial overview introduced by Annington Properties will declare that the defence ministry is appearing unlawfully through the use of property legislation to attempt to take again possession of properties that had been a part of a controversial £1.7bn sale and leaseback settlement concluded in 1996.

The UK authorities stated in January final yr that it was exploring methods to pressure by renationalisation of the property and would goal a small variety of properties in a take a look at case.

Based mostly on March 2022 valuations, the property is now estimated to be price £8.15bn, based on paperwork filed at London’s Excessive Courtroom.

Within the 1996 deal, Annington Properties, which was subsequently acquired by Terra Firma, the non-public fairness agency based by Palms, purchased 57,434 properties for navy service households. The MoD then leased them again and agreed to cowl the price of their upkeep.

The deal, which signed the yr earlier than the then Conservative authorities misplaced energy to Labour, has been broadly criticised. The Nationwide Audit Workplace estimated in 2018 that the taxpayer was between £2.2bn and £4.2bn worse off from the transaction, overseen by defence secretary Michael Portillo, over the primary 21 years of the contract.

In its take a look at case, the MoD targeted a small variety of homes with so-called enfranchisement notices underneath the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, which permits leaseholders to purchase the freehold of their residential property at a worth agreed by a court docket.

In its submitting to the Excessive Courtroom, Annington is searching for a ruling that the enfranchisement notices had been illegal. It claimed they had been a part of a “wider scheme” by the MoD to situation enfranchisement notices in plenty of take a look at circumstances after which to “pursue a broader enfranchisement programme” of its property portfolio.

Annington additionally claimed the MoD was in breach of human rights legal guidelines and alleged that the motion amounted “to make use of of obligatory acquisition powers by the Crown.”

It criticised the defence ministry for utilizing state powers to “deprive it” of its property and alleged it had not “happy the circumstances for obligatory acquisition,” including: “No public curiosity which is per the statutory scheme has been recognized by the MoD.” It argued that the 1967 Act “was clearly not supposed for use by a public authority”.

Annington had thought-about promoting the MoD property portfolio final yr however this has been placed on maintain due to the lawsuit.

In its filings contesting the case, the MoD claimed that Annington’s authorized motion is a “clear try by the claimants to make use of the judicial overview process to extend their bargaining energy over the MoD.” 

It added {that a} broader enfranchisement programme was “in fact a risk” however stated that “no determination to pursue such a programme has been taken.” 

The MoD’s submission pointed to a January 2022 written ministerial statement by Jeremy Quin, then minister for defence procurement, saying the primary take a look at case that stated “if the price of recovering full possession of the items from Annington [was] lower than the current worth of MoD’s ongoing liabilities, such a transaction [was] more likely to characterize good worth for cash.” 

Terra Firma purchased Annington from Nomura Holdings for £3.2bn in 2012. Palms, who’s the chair of the non-public fairness agency, was a part of the Nomura workforce that struck the unique 1996 deal. The MoD then leased again the properties on a 200-year lease at a reduction but in addition agreed to pay the prices of refurbishment and upkeep.

The MoD stated: “We’re exploring our statutory leasehold rights as a part of our ongoing overview to make sure worth for taxpayers’ cash. It might be inappropriate to remark additional whereas authorized proceedings are ongoing.” Annington declined to remark.

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