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Britain’s Most Famous Buyout Baron Has A £7B Hot Spot For Property Right Now

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Interior look of IWG's No18 coworking operation

It is not hard to work out why Guy Hands and Terra Firma are fixated on property right now.

Terra Firma is not a property specialist. But property is where it has done many of its most profitable deals. While founder Hands will forever be reminded of his ill-timed takeover of music label EMI, which personally cost him €200M, forays into property in the form of the purchases of two massive residential companies, Annington in the U.K. and Deutsche Annington (now Vonovia) in Germany, have been hugely profitable.

Terra Firma is bidding on two property and property-related companies, and was eyeing up a third deal, £7B of potential acquisitions all told, though the third has not come to fruition.

On Monday the world’s largest flexible office company, IWG, confirmed reports that Terra Firma had approached it about a potential offer, joining a group of bidders that includes Starwood Capital and TDR Capital. IWG’s current market capitalisation is £3B.

Terra Firma is also on a list of bidders for the commercial property arm of Network Rail, which comprises around 5,500 railway arches valued at around £1.5B. The other bidders are CK Asset Holdings, Kildare Partners, Goldman Sachs and the Wellcome Trust and Blackstone and Telereal Trillium, according to Estates Gazette.

Terra Firma was also reported to be running the rule over but ultimately did not submit a bid for Quintain, the build-to-rent developer being sold by Lone Star for £2.5B.

What unites the three companies, and Terra Firma’s successful forays into property with firms like Annington, is that all three deals are for large companies with a large number of small assets like rail arches, serviced offices or apartments, where relatively high leverage can be put in place and rental levels increased.