Brookfield Buys Big Stake In British Land
Many of the UK’s biggest REITs have being trading at big discounts to their net asset value for more than a year, hit first by uncertainty over Brexit and then the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. And now one of the world’s biggest property investors has used this as an opportunity to pounce.
Stock exchange filings Thursday show Brookfield has taken a 7% stake in British Land, its first significant investment in a listed UK real estate company since it bought into Canary Wharf Group in the early 2000s.
Brookfield paid about £264M for the stake, and immediately becomes the company’s largest shareholder ahead of Norges Bank Investment Management, which owns 5% of the shares.
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Brookfield made the investment through a subsidiary of Brookfield Strategic Real Estate Partners III, its third global opportunity fund, which raised $15B of equity in January 2019.
British Land’s shares rose 2.5% to 407p when trading opened on Friday. That is a discount to its net asset value of 47%. Its shares have fallen 36% since the beginning of the year, hit by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly on its retail portfolio.
In full-year results last week it said it had marked down the value of its retail portfolio 26% to £3.9B. In contrast it said its London office portfolio had risen in value 2% to £6.8B.
It is not clear whether Brookfield has bought the stake because it feels the shares are underpriced and it can make money if they go up again, or if this is the precursor to a potential takeover, as was the case when it bought into Canary Wharf. After a battle of more than 10 years it eventually took Canary Wharf private in 2015 in a £2.6B deal where it partnered with the Qatar Investment Authority. Ironically, during a 2004 duel for the company, British Land and Brookfield were on opposing sides.
Any combination of British Land and Brookfield would create by far and away the largest owner of London property. Canary Wharf has an office and retail portfolio valued at £6.2B and a development pipeline valued at £4B. The London office portfolio of Brookfield Property Partners is valued at well over £3B.
Of appeal to Brookfield would be British Land’s Canada Wharf mixed-use development scheme, with a potential end value of more than £3B.