Blackstone Group LP (BX:US)’s real estate unit is close to completing a restructuring of Multi Corp. that would give it full ownership of the debt-laden European mall developer, said two people with knowledge of the situation.
Blackstone, the biggest manager of private-equity property funds, has amassed more than 90 percent of Multi’s 900 million euros ($1.2 billion) of corporate debt and a similar share of its equity in the past 15 months, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. The New York-based firm is in talks to buy the rest of Multi’s loans and stock from a German lender, one of the people said.
Once the purchase is complete, Blackstone plans to forgive the debt and use Multi to snap up shopping malls and other retail properties across Europe. Blackstone believes Multi is in a position to capitalize on a wave of retail-property sales triggered by Europe’s economic woes, the person said.
Peter Rose, a Blackstone spokesman, declined to comment on Blackstone’s investment in Multi. Multi representatives didn’t respond to an e-mail sent after regular business hours yesterday.
Multi, based in Gouda, the Netherlands, owns and manages real estate throughout Europe, and the bulk of its assets are in Turkey. The largest Turkish mall landlord, Multi owns the country’s two largest retail centers, both in Istanbul, along with six malls in other cities, according to this person.
Blackstone last month won approval from the European Commission and Turkish antitrust authorities to take over Multi, and no additional government support is needed for the deal to go through, the person said. After it gains control of the company, Blackstone would merge Multi’s properties with three Turkish malls it bought last year from Dutch real estate owner Redevco BV. It paid about 200 million euros for those properties, the person said.
Blackstone also would fold into Multi a 500 million-euro portfolio of retail properties it owns in Poland. If a pending deal for Blackstone to buy a group of Italian malls goes through, Multi would absorb those too, according to the person.
Blackstone has paid about 500 million euros for the Multi debt and equity, the person said.
It’s the second restructuring for Multi in less than two years. In December 2011, a Morgan Stanley (MS:US) real estate fund that had acquired the company in 2006, at the peak of the market, agreed to cede its equity stake to Multi’s lenders. The accord kept Multi’s 900 million euros of corporate debt and almost 1 billion euros of property loans intact.
Blackstone, which began to acquire Multi’s corporate loans in June 2012, has now bought out the stakes of 10 of the 11 banks that financed the 2006 buyout, the people said. Those lenders included NIBC Bank NV and ING Groep NV (INGA) of the Netherlands, Germany’s Hypo Real Estate Holding AG and U.K. banks Royal Bank of Scotland Plc and Lloyds Banking Group Plc.
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