VIA Outlets gets new ownership structure with APG and Hammerson takeover

Fast-growing retail specialist VIA Outlets has been acquired by Dutch pension investor APG and UK-based retail REIT, Hammerson.

The pair have each increased their shareholding by just over 3% at a price of €32 mln per holding, making VIA Outlets a 50:50 joint venture with a value of €1.6 bn.

The vendors in the transaction were Meyer Bergman and Value Retail, who sold their stakes at a slight premium to net asset value.

VIA provides an upmarket - or 'premium' - shopping experience offering eye-catching discounts on desirable brands, at 11 centres dotted across Europe. Founded in 2014 as a private equity fund, VIA has until now been a partnership including APG, Value Retail, fund manager Meyer Bergman and Hammerson.

The timing of the deal is related to the fact that VIA’s fund structure is due to expire at the end of the year. In July, PropertyEU highlighted that change was afoot when chief operating officer Otto Ambagtsheer was appointed VIA’s first CEO.

During the first six months of 2019 VIA saw sales rise 10%, in what is a bright spot for a physical retail sector troubled by the rise of online shopping, which continues to disrupt revenue models. Last year, VIA’s sales were up 9% on 2017.

Commenting on the establishment of a corporate structure at VIA, Ambagtsheer said: ‘APG and Hammerson have long-standing interests in the premium outlet sector and their additional investment enables us to turn VIA Outlets into a self-managed and independent operating organisation.

‘This will ensure the outstanding performance at VIA Outlets is maintained, enabling us to continue to substantially outperform the wider retail market.

‘We would like to thank Value Retail and Meyer Bergman for their notable support. Their expertise has been instrumental in establishing and growing our portfolio of high-performing outlet destinations to where we are today. We are excited about the next phase of the business and the opportunity ahead of us.'

David Atkins, CEO of Hammerson, said: 'Our investment in VIA Outlets is a major differentiator for Hammerson as this is a sector which continues to deliver value creation, as well as significant growth in brand sales and footfall.

‘The management team at VIA Outlets has a clear strategy to attract new brands and deliver further extensions which will capitalise on the increased spending we are seeing in the market, and the low online penetration in this sector.

'This transaction also streamlines the ownership structure of VIA Outlets, and enhances the governance of this strategically important business unit.'

Robert Jan Foortse, head of private real estate at APG said: 'This transaction marks the beginning of the next phase of VIA Outlets, a business that we have started 5 years ago.

'We and Hammerson are very grateful for all the support that Value Retail and Meyer Bergman have provided to VIA Outlets over the past period, which has been instrumental to the success that VIA Outlets has become.

'Going forward we are excited to work with the internalised management team, headed by Otto Ambagtsheer, to further grow the sales generated by the brands in the fashion outlets owned by VIA Outlets.'

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