A Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund is in exclusive negotiations to acquire four office blocks at AIB Bankcentre in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, for about €98m, more than €70m less than owner Aviva Investors paid for them in 2006.

Until now, sovereign wealth funds' exposure to Irish property was limited to the 50% stake that the Oman Investment Fund has in Jurys Inns.

The buildings, which are let to AIB for 17 more years, have also drawn interest from Israeli investors amongst others.

Aviva Investors had originally planned to sell only two of the blocks but a proposed €50m deal with Domhnal Slattery's Claret Capital collapsed.

It has previously stated that it received "unsolicited approaches" about the office blocks and other properties it owns.

"Aviva Investors has no comment to make with regard to market speculation on the assets which it manages," a spokesman told the Sunday Tribune.

The buildings were acquired as part of a larger deal in which property developer Seán Dunne acquired four other office blocks on the site and land to the front of the complex. In total, the deals raised nearly €380m for AIB and followed the earlier sale and lease-back of newer office blocks there to the Serpentine consortium for nearly €370m.

The office block forms part of Aviva's Irish Property Fund which is down more than 15.5% in value since the turn of the year. The fund has 18 assets including shops at Grafton Street and Henry Street, and office buildings in Dublin 2. Tenants include HMV, A-Wear, the IDA and the ESB.

"Irish commercial property benefited from the phenomenal growth during Ireland's economic boom in the Celtic Tiger years and, conversely, declined in line with the overall economy," the fund's report for May stated.

More money started flowing out of the fund than was going into it in December 2007.

As revealed in the Sunday Tribune, Aviva subsidiary Morley Fund Management, together with the Duke of Westminster's Grosvenor Estates, are trying to sell part of their stake in Liffey Valley shopping centre in west Dublin.

Irish property figures have been hoping to entice Middle-Eastern buyers into the Irish market for some time. Some in the industry believe London will remain a far more attractive market for these buyers in the short term.