CLIENT CASE: Finnish Cultural Foundation – sale of office portfolio

The Finnish Cultural Foundation is a private foundation which distributes grants in various areas of science, art, and culture. Even on a European scale, the Cultural Foundation is a large foundation. The market value of its assets at the close of the last year of operation was over 1.6 billion euros. Its funds are mainly invested in stocks, interest rate instruments and properties, of which the latter two made up around 13%.
Significant investment decisions in the Cultural Fund are taken by Financial Committee, where the majority of the members are on the Board of Trustees. The chief investment officer together with the administrative secretary are responsible for investments in the Foundation’s management group.
Entire multi let office buildings are large investments, requiring activity also from the owner in repair and releting projects. In addition, there is aggressive and, on occasion, unhealthy competition for tenants in pursuit of a quick profit on the premises market. Currently, the demand for properties on the investment markets has remained active and the price level healthy. As a result after careful consideration, the Cultural Foundation decided to initiate the sale of its three office properties. Ecorum had long gathered information on the markets for the Foundation and in early 2016, the market outlook was deemed optimal. After competitive bidding, Ecorum was ultimately chosen to take care of the sale of the property portfolio as well. However before final selection, it was necessary to compare industry professionals’ views on e.g. the sales process, schedule, sales price, and fee – and of course, to get to know the team. “Our investment operations are supported and guided by an expert Financial Committee and our skilled administrative staff help with practical work. But in reality there is only one person in our organisation who focuses on investment management. As such we needed a partner to whom we could outsource the sale of our property portfolio all the way up to commercial negotiations. We were convinced by Ecorum’s transaction competence, knowledge of the market and ability to understand the client’s operating culture, needs and values,” explains Ralf Sunell, the Foundation’s Chief Investment Officer.

The sales process – from drawing up a strategy to implementation

“Our portfolio comprised two old office properties in downtown Helsinki and an office property completed in 2001 in Leppävaara – attractive sites, but overall the portfolio was lacking an understandable common denominator. In addition, we had an issue in the form of one small shareholder in one of our downtown valued properties. It was decided that Ecorum’s proposal for the sale of the sites would be initiated immediately – to sell everything, either together or separately. The strategy was a success. Aberdeen’s Nordic fund purchased the city-centre valued properties, and a fund managed by Fennia purchased Basso, in Leppävaara,” Sunell continues.

“The sales strategy was drawn up carefully and as such the negotiations and reporting to the customer went smoothly. Ecorum’s team was flexible and inventive – which we really needed, especially when the sale progressed to the Due Diligence phase. When the goods for sale are mainly over one hundred years old, you need sufficient documentation on the history of the property’s repairs, special competence, and effort”, says Sunell of the project’s various phases.

“Even though our schedule stretched a few weeks over the agreed deadline of the turn of the year, the sale overall went very well. With Ecorum’s expertise, we were able to attract the interest of both Finnish and international investors. And even though we decided to make some concessions – primarily relating to repair costs – the overall price remained within the desired band in line with Ecorum’s advance estimate. And because our cooperation went flawlessly, I can warmly recommend Ecorum as a partner to other property owners,” concludes Ralf Sunell.

Ralf Sunell

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