Business News

Merkur shopping centres sold to US fund

Naklo/Ljubljana, 10 July (STA) - US investment fund HPS Investment Partners has sold the shopping centres of Merkur, the hardware retailer it purchased in 2017, to another US fund, LCN Capital Partners, news portal reported on Wednesday. The 15 of the 23 Merkur shopping centres were reportedly sold for EUR 100 million.

The deal between the two New York-based funds, which is one of the largest real estate transactions in Slovenia's history, was officially closed a few weeks ago.

This means that the investment of HPS Investment Partners in Merkur paid off in less than two years.

The fund bought the retail arm of the insolvent hardware group Merkur in July 2017. It paid EUR 28.56 million for Merkur Trgovina, and soon after that also acquired the 13 shopping centres where Merkur Trgovina operates for another EUR 49 million.

HPS Investment Partners was reportedly also interested in five more shopping centres, owned by the company Merkur Nepremičnine. But the bad bank, which owns Merkur Nepremičnine, is allegedly no longer looking for a buyer because it is happy with the company's operations, Siol reported.

The shopping centres Ljubljana Vižmarje, Radomlje Jarše, Maribor, Mojster Maribor, Celje Hudinja, Novo Mesto Bršljin, Ptuj, Murska Sobota, Slovenj Gradec, Velenje, Škofja Loka, Nova Gorica, Mojster Nova Gorica, Lesce and Litija are now owned by LCN Capital Partners.

Merkur Trgovina has already agreed on the long-term lease of the centres with the new owners, having signed a contract for 25 years with the possibility of two ten-year extensions.

It also has a pre-emptive right to the shopping centres.

Founded in 2011, LCN Capital Partners manages some US$2 billion and specialises in the primary sale-leaseback and build-to-suit markets.

It has been quite active on the European market recently, having bought some shopping centres off of Croatia's Agrokor before the struggling conglomerate went into receivership and then leased them back, much like in the Merkur deal.

HPS Investment Partners had reportedly been looking for a buyer for Merkur shopping centres for months.

Slovenia's biggest hardware retailer has been recording positive results recently. Its sales revenue almost reached EUR 51 million in the first quarter of this year, which is 15% more than in the same period in 2018.

Operating profit more than tripled to half a million euro, Siol reported.

In June, Merkur management and trade unions signed a deal to raise holiday allowance for the 1,500 Merkur employees.

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