Watkin Jones shares surged today after the struggling housing developer agreed the forward sale of a built-to-rent project in Belfast’s iconic Titanic Quarter.

Legal & General and Clanmil Housing Association will pay £155million to Watkin Jones and become owners of the development, called Loft Lines, on completion.

It will consist of 627 built-to-rent units and 81 ‘social rent affordable homes’ built on the site of the former Harland and Wolff shipyard.

What it will look like: A CGI of urban riverside development, Loft Lines

What it will look like: A CGI of urban riverside development, Loft Lines

What it will look like: A CGI of urban riverside development, Loft Lines

Watkin Jones shares, which tumbled to a record low last month after it warned around £15million of profit will be delayed until its next financial year, rose 6 per cent to 72.4p in early trade on Monday.

However, the shares – which floated at 100p in March 2016 – have lost almost 30 per cent of their value since the start of the year and are down by around 68 per cent compared to 12 months ago. 

The urban riverside development, the first build-to-rent project in Belfast, is part of one of the largest waterfront regeneration sites in Europe, the company said. 

It will be made up of a mix of one, two and three-bed apartments, including facilities such as a gym, dedicated work from home space, podium gardens and terraces, and will include around 11,000sqft of commercial space. 

‘The development will help to further catalyse the regeneration of Queens Island, alongside helping to transform Belfast city centre living, bringing attractive residential homes to the area for the first time and a significant boost to the local economy,’ the company said.

Construction work is set to start before the end of the year, with delivery estimated for the summer of 2026.

Richard Simpson, chief executive of Watkin Jones, added: ‘This is further evidence of the attractive investment and operational fundamentals of both BTR as a sector and Belfast as a city and a good sign of capital markets re-opening.’

Andrew Kail, chief executive of Legal & General Retirement Institutiona,l said: ‘We are thrilled to announce our BTR development in Belfast, which marks the largest residential investment in Northern Ireland. 

‘This significant milestone is a great example of how we’re investing in socially-useful, economically attractive assets and using pension savings to create vibrant and sustainable living environments.’

The deal comes as Watkin Jones posted a first-half loss last month as revenues sank and costs soared.

Its revenue plunged by a fifth to £153.9million in the six months to the end of March after it completed no new forward sales. 

At the time, the group also said that tough market conditions meant it had chosen not to ‘accelerate pipeline assets on to our balance sheet in readiness for sale’.

However, it forecast a stronger material performance in the latter half of the financial year, supported by a rebound in forward sales. 

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