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Blackstone Ends Year With A Bang With £500M Acquisition Of Listed Industrial Company Hansteen

Hansteen's Morgan Jones and Ian Watson

Merger and acquisitions are more often predicted than they are reality in the listed UK property sector: though prices might look attractive for buyers because companies are trading at discounts to net asset value, UK listed propco boards are often loathe to sell.

Blackstone and Hansteen bucked the trend this week. The U.S. private equity giant agreed to buy the UK industrial owner in a deal that values Hansteen at around £500M.

Blackstone is buying the UK industrial assets of Hansteen, having bought its German and Dutch assets for €1.3B (£1.1B) in 2017. Hansteen owns 256 properties totalling 13.2M SF across the UK worth £650M and that produce rent of £50M a year. The £500M figure is the gross asset value minus the company’s debt. 

In announcing the deal Hansteen said the price Blackstone is paying is a 10% premium to the company’s share price before the deal was announced, and a 12% premium to its net asset value.

For Blackstone, the deal continues its fast and aggressive push into the light industrial sector, which is essentially a bet on the growth in last-mile logistics and the shrinking amount of space allocated for industrial uses. It said the Hansteen assets will be integrated into Mileway, its urban logistics platform, which has around €8B of assets across Europe.

For Hansteen and its chief executives, Ian Watson and Morgan Jones, it marks the end of an era, and the duo have shown twice now exactly how to time a cycle.

They set up their first company, Ashtenne, in 1989, floated it in 1997 and then sold out entirely in 2005 ( the new owners subsequently hit trouble after buying the portfolio with too much debt). They set up and floated Hansteen the same year, bought properties cheaply and with cheap debt after the credit crunch, and then sold out at a big profit.

Shareholders and analysts have sometimes criticised Watson and Jones for paying themselves too much, but they have made money for shareholders: Over the last 10 years Hansteen shareholders have made an average annual return of 13%. As owners of a bit more than 5% of the company, they will net themselves more than £25M from the sale.