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Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

Cromwell pulls out of $1.7b Singapore float

by September 24, 2017 General

Cromwell Property has shocked investors with its decision to pull its ???1.09 billion ($1.7billion) float of a portfolio of European assets, known as CEREIT.

The group told the ASX at 7pm last Friday that after feedback from its advisers and key shareholders the interest level in the float was low and possibly unlikely to gain any traction to get over the line. Marketing of the float had only started last week.

Cromwell, run by Paul Weightman???, had already signalled that it would increase its stake in the IPO from an original 13.2 per cent to 25.9 per cent, but that failed to stir investor interest in a stable of European properties.

The float was flagged at the group’s full-year results in August, with Mr Weightman saying the European real estate investment trust, to be listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, was part of its strategy to diversify its capital sources and increase recurring income from the funds management business.

But on Friday night he said that “despite receiving significant interest from strategic, institutional and retail investors, given current market conditions, it will not proceed with the registration of the prospectus for the Cromwell European REIT, (CEREIT) in accordance with the timetable previously indicated to the market.

“Cromwell continues to believe in the quality of CEREIT’s portfolio, its investment thesis, and the exposure it provides to improving European real estate fundamentals,” Mr Weightman said.

“Cromwell will reassess the situation in conjunction with key stakeholders and strategic partners, and will provide a further update in due course.”

Most of the assets are the former Valad Europe platform that Cromwell acquired in 2015 and there were plans to include three assets from its own balance sheet into the new trust. The portfolio has more than 10 per cent vacancy but is diversified across sectors and geographies.

Cancellation of the float ended a tough week for Cromwell, which also faced a credit ratings downgrade from Moody’s Investors Services. Cromwell said it commenced the process with Moody’s to withdraw its public issuer rating, and to obtain a private issuer rating and a single public rating of Cromwell’s secured debt platform.

“This strategy for our Moody’s ratings supports our stated capital management strategy. As we reported in our 2017 results announcement, we propose to enter into arrangements on our secured debt platform that are expected to lengthen tenure and diversify funding sources,” Mr Weightman said.

“We expect that moving to one public rating, against a debt platform secured by Australian property assets, will put Cromwell in the best position to finalise those arrangements on the best possible terms.”

Analysts said the attention will now refocus on Cromwell’s near 10 per cent stake in Investa Office amid expectations it could sell it and use the cash elsewhere.

Cromwell bought the stake in 2016 and while saying it wanted to make a formal offer, none has emerged.

At the August results Mr Weightman said a “friendly transaction is unlikely to proceed, regardless of the price that we offer, and we continue to consider our options”.

On the conference call, he indicated the 2018 financial year guidance assumes a sell-down of its stake in Investa Office Fund.

Separately, Investa Commercial Property Fund has increased its holding in Investa Office from 8.94 per cent to 10.03 per cent following the recent acquisition of 5.5 million units and the impact of the Investa Office buyback.