Over the years, Nordics real estate advisor Pangea Property Partners has received numerous buyout approaches, but turned them all down. So, why did an approach from Colliers EMEA in the springtime work out?
Last week, Toronto-headquartered and Nasdaq-listed Colliers completed the previously announced acquisition of a controlling stake in the firm.
Declaring the consummation, Colliers said that in Pangea it had a leading capital markets advisor in Sweden and Norway.
Now Pangea is to be merged with Colliers’ existing company-owned operations in Sweden, and replace the Colliers affiliate in Norway. Colliers stated: ‘This transaction firmly positions Colliers as the dominant player in the Nordic region, building on our top-tier operations in Denmark and Finland.’
Bård Bjølgerud, a co-founder, partner, and CEO of Pangea, says the company was not really for sale, and up until now had concluded it was better to remain ‘on its own’ to pursue growth plans.
But when Colliers EMEA contacted Pangea in April it felt different. ‘For the first time I can honestly say we really felt a meeting of minds. From the very beginning we had very good discussions about how a company like this could become a definitive market leader in the Nordics combining two entities.’
While the Nordics continues to attract plentiful foreign investment into real estate, there was agreement that the Nordics remains essentially a ‘local business’ driven by local connections. Hence, a key term of the acquisition was a decentralised approach. Pangea wanted to retain some economic interest in the company. That was agreed too.
Pangea also gained confidence from speaking with the management of Colliers Danmark. The local Copenhagen firm had been a Colliers affiliate for years but agreed to allow Colliers to acquire a controlling stake in 2017.
Then in 2018, Colliers and Colliers Danmark purchased another Danish capital markets firm, Sadolin & Albaek, which got merged with Colliers Danmark. As part of its due diligence, Pangea looked into how the mergers had progressed and was pleased with what it heard, including how Sadolin & Albaek’s local capital markets share had apparently risen from approximately 30% to 45%.
With key terms agreed quickly, a letter of intent between Pangea and Colliers was signed. Coincidentally this occurred on Norway’s national day, May 17 – perhaps a good omen?
The summer and official approval by the relevant authorities were the only material reasons for any slowdown in progress until closing and completion in what was otherwise a fast-moving transaction.
Pangea employs around 50 people almost equally split between Sweden and Norway. Colliers meanwhile employs around 200 people in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. It is only in Sweden where two operations need to be physically merged.
Bjølgerud thinks in this transaction the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. What Pangea is already bringing to the table, by the way, is a track record including 400 transactions in 2021 and a market share of 27%.
The firm advised on several jumbo transactions, including Akelius on the sale of 28,776 apartments in Scandinavia and Germany to Heimstaden Bostad AB for €9.1 bn, Entra on the acquisition of the entirety of the shares in Oslo Areal for €1.31 bn, and as joint lead advisor to HitecVision and Asset Buyout Partners (ABP) on the sale of ABP to Balder for €900 mln.
As a new management group has been established and rebranding work progresses, the market will see one company covering the Nordic region.
Bjølgerud says synergies will be noticed from core competences, not least research functions.
But given the present capital markets conditions for real estate investing are challenging, does Bjølgerud think this is a good time to consummate a deal?
He explains that Pangea was started in 2009, just a year into the Global Financial Crisis.
‘Back then, many people asked why start a company when everything is dark? My personal view is that this is exactly the sort of time we should start something. It is not a question of “if” the market comes back, but “when”. And one needs a little bit of time to get everyone aligned cross countries and business lines. You need time to prepare for a new market. This is the case right now. I would say the timing is good to take a step forward and I hope our clients will see some effects pretty immediately.’