Why investing giant Blackstone is willing to take a €4bn punt on Finnish property

 
Lucy White
Blackstone will fork out €1.76bn for the acquisition of Helsinki-based Sponda
Blackstone will fork out €1.76bn for the acquisition of Helsinki-based Sponda (Source: Getty)

Blackstone, the mammoth asset manager led by President Trump's economics adviser Stephen Schwarzman, might be best known in the real estate world for investing in names such as Hilton Hotels and London's St Katharine Docks.

Yet the firm's latest deal might see it take on almost €4bn-worth of property in a rather more unassuming location – Finland.

Blackstone has launched a bid for Sponda, a Helsinki-listed business which invests in commercial properties before developing and leasing them.

Read more: Blackstone buys Land Securities' Times Square London office development in £268m deal

Its offer of €5.19 per share, which has been recommended by Sponda's board, means Blackstone will fork out a substantial of €1.76bn for the acquisition – making it the largest Finnish real estate transaction backed by an investment firm, according to alternative assets data provider Preqin.

Sponda's largest shareholders have already accepted the offer, which was a 20.7 per cent premium to the company's closing price on Friday.

The firm sees promise in the Nordic country, which is attracting increasing amounts of international capital helping to boost its economic development. It is slowly returning to growth, as gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by almost three per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2017.

Yet the country hasn't had the best few years financially, with its own finance minister calling it the “sick man of Europe” in 2016.

“Due to Finland's weak economic situation over the past years, this stock has been trading at a discount and it seems that the owners did not believe it could trade at a premium any time soon,” said analyst Matias Rautionmaa from OP Equities.

“For Blackstone, this firm offers good cash flow and yield that they can distribute to owners.”

The firm already owns more than €1bn of real estate assets in Finland, and Swedish real estate fund manager Areim will co-invest in the latest transaction.

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