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Avison Young Buys GVA For £200M

Avison Young CEO Mark Rose at the company's 2016 meeting in Toronto.

Avison Young has put its investment from CDPQ to work in a big way: Thursday it agreed to buy U.K. property services firm GVA for a reported £200M ($262M).

The company announced it had reached a deal with GVA’s owner, Swedish private equity firm EQT, to buy GVA in a deal that will complete in the first quarter. It is paying £200M, CoStar reports. Cushman & Wakefield also bid on GVA, Property Week reported earlier this year.

GVA has 1,500 staff across three countries, the U.K., Ireland and Poland, with the majority in the U.K.

The company covers 25 business lines and is particularly noted in the U.K. for its work for public sector clients like the U.K. government and local authorities. The firm is more than 200 years old, tracing its history back to the merger of two surveying practices in Birmingham, England.

In July Canadian pension fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec made a C$250M ($190M, £145M) preferred equity investment in Avison Young to help it buy businesses and become a challenger to larger brokerage firms. It has made two acquisitions so far, one in the U.K. and one in Seoul, South Korea. All told it now has 4,200 employees in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Europe and Korea. Of that number 1,600 are in the U.K.

Avison Young said the acquisition would be funded by debt from Credit Suisse as well as equity from CDPQ and its own balance sheet, and it has plenty of firepower left for more acquisitions. Some GVA staff will receive shares in the combined business.

“Avison Young’s U.K. business will now be a genuine challenger brand firmly established among the top commercial real estate advisors in the U.K., North America and the world,” Avison Young Chief Executive and Chairman Mark Rose said. “This acquisition adds gravitas, weight, coverage and profile to our international operations as we continue to solidify our global platform while preserving our culture as a principal-led company.”