Cromwell sells European fund management platform

Home News

23/05/2024

Highlights

  • Cromwell has agreed to sell its European fund management platform and interests, including the Cromwell Italy Urban Logistics Fund and Cromwell European REIT, to Stoneweg for €280 million¹ / $457 million (Transaction).²
  • The Transaction continues the Group’s strategy to simplify the business and transition to a capital-light fund management model, through the sale of non-core assets and realigning to Cromwell’s core competencies in Australia and New Zealand.
  • The Transaction, together with the completed divestment of the CPRF portfolio, puts Cromwell in a strong financial position to execute on its stated strategy, with significant capital to redeploy to pursue value accretive opportunities when markets are conducive, to provide longer term growth for securityholders.
  • Post completion of the Transaction, Cromwell’s pro-forma gearing and look-through gearing will both reduce to approximately 25%. The sale represents the conclusion of a $1.6 billion sale programme to reduce Cromwell’s gearing.
  • Cromwell will continue to manage $4.8 billion of assets in Australia and New Zealand, including a portfolio of high-quality assets in Australia, and will focus future efforts on growing its Australian and New Zealand funds management platform.
  • Following the financial completion of the Transaction, Cromwell will review its capital position and funding requirements and options for possible capital management initiatives.

Cromwell Property Group (ASX:CMW) (Cromwell or the Group), today announces that it has entered into a binding agreement for the sale of Cromwell’s European fund management platform and associated co-investments2 for a total consideration of €280 million¹ / $457 million to Stoneweg SA Group (Stoneweg), a Geneva headquartered, multi-strategy real estate investment manager with over €4.0 billion of assets under management.

The Transaction covers all components of Cromwell’s European business2. The assets of the Cromwell Polish Retail Fund do not form part of the Transaction as they were subject to a separate sale process as previously announced, which completed on 15 May 2024 in Europe.

The Transaction is consistent with the Group’s commitment to simplify the business to transition to a capital-light funds management model. The exit from the European business allows Cromwell to be focused on its core competencies in Australia and New Zealand and positions the platform for future growth.

Commenting on this strategic advancement, Chair Dr Gary Weiss said: “This is a turning point for Cromwell to focus on leveraging the exceptional team we have in Australia, to drive value from our local asset and funds management business. In the current operating environment, numerous options were considered to simplify and de-risk the business, and we believe that this transaction will provide the debt reduction and working capital needed to move forward in a focused and value-accretive way. We extend our thanks to our investors and other stakeholders for remaining engaged and supportive as we have executed on Cromwell’s refreshed strategy over the last few years.”

Cromwell’s CEO, Jonathan Callaghan commented “Since December 2021, we have divested $1.6 billion of non-core assets and investment positions locally and offshore, greatly stabilising the business and ensuring we have the right foundations for future growth. This journey has been an extended one due to the complexities involved in undertaking transactions across a number of countries and jurisdictions, with multiple hurdles to overcome. I take this opportunity to thank those members of the Cromwell team who participated in this exercise, especially those who will move to Stoneweg as a result of this Transaction.

“I strongly believe that Stoneweg is an excellent match with very little overlap in terms of geographic and asset class focus. We are confident they will be the right custodian for the capital that our platform manages and are well placed, enabling it to support these mandates and funds including the continued growth of CEREIT.”

Cromwell will continue to own and manage a high-quality Australian portfolio of commercial assets valued at $2.4 billion with its long-standing, well-respected funds management platforms in Australia and New Zealand also managing an additional $2.4 billion of assets, supported by a strong balance sheet to fund new investment opportunities to build meaningful long-term value for our investors.”

The sale proceeds will initially be used to repay debt. On completion of the sale process, the Group’s pro-forma gearing (and look-through gearing) will reduce to approximately 25%, which is below the REIT sector average. This will provide significant balance sheet capacity to take advantage of organic and inorganic growth opportunities as they arise.

Cromwell anticipates the Group’s pro-forma NTA impact will be -8% and proforma earnings impact of -8%³. The proforma earnings impact of both this Transaction and the sale of CPRF is expected to be -12%³.

Following the financial completion of the Transaction, Cromwell will review its capital position and funding requirements and options for possible capital management initiatives.

The Transaction remains subject to customary closing conditions and adjustments, including approval by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier in Luxembourg as well as debt change of control consents or waivers. Completion is expected to occur in Q1 FY25. The full amount of the sale proceeds is due to be received on completion of the sale.

After the completion of the Transaction, Cromwell will work with Stoneweg to facilitate the transition of business operations, ensuring a full and orderly separation of the European and Singaporean staff, platform and systems, which is expected to be completed during FY25.

Cromwell has been working through a process to identify growth opportunities aligned with the stated strategy to drive future shareholder value and will provide a further update around full year results in August 2024.

Cromwell has engaged Citigroup Global Markets Australia Pty Limited and UBS Securities Australia Limited as its financial advisers, and Linklaters as its legal adviser.

 

1. Based on FY24 proforma earnings.

2. Gross price subject to settlement adjustments.

3. The Transaction comprises an acquisition of 100% of equity interests in Cromwell EREIT Management Pte. Ltd. and Cromwell European Holdings Limited, 50% interest in Cromwell Italy Urban Logistics Fund (subject to counterparty consent) as well as a 27.8% interest in Cromwell European REIT.

Half-Year Results For Period Ended 31 December 2023

Home News

29/02/2024

Overview

  • Statutory loss of $271.4 million (HY23 $129.5 million loss), impacted by a $240.2 million decline in property valuations
  • Operating profit of $83.7 million (HY23 $87.1 million), equivalent to 3.2 cents per security, was marginally down as a result of asset sales
  • On a like-for-like basis, Net Operating Income of the Australian Investment Portfolio was up 1%
  • HY24 distributions of 1.58 cents per security, reflects a payout ratio on adjusted funds from operations (‘AFFO’) of 62.6%
  • Net Tangible Assets per security of $0.72 (FY23 $0.84), with gearing at 44.7% (FY23 42.6%)
  • Total assets under management of $11.4 billion (FY23 $11.5 billion)
  • Investment portfolio occupancy of 93.4%, with a WALE of 5.3 years
  • Leasing markets remain active, with key leasing initiatives keeping occupancy strong

Continued focus on debt reduction and delivering stable income returns.


Cromwell Property Group (ASX:CMW) (Cromwell)
, today announces its results for the half-year ending 31 December 2023.

Persistent pressure on valuations both locally and in Europe was the major contributor to the statutory performance of the business and the decline in net tangible assets. In the six months to 31 December 2023, there were unrealised fair value reductions of $195.7 million (-7.5%) across the Australian Investment Portfolio and $44.5 million (-8.1%) for the Cromwell Polish Retail Fund (CPRF) Sale Portfolio1.

Cromwell commenced its asset sale programme in late 2021, prior to the expansion of capitalisation rates. Since then, we have completed or contracted over $584 million of asset sales, largely at or above book value, with a further $528 million anticipated to complete by June 2024, totalling $1.1 billion.

At the commencement of Cromwell’s asset sale programme, gearing was outside target range at 41.8%. The $584 million of completed or contracted assets sales has mitigated the impact of market valuation declines, however gearing still sits outside target range at 44.7%. On completion of the sale of CPRF, gearing is expected to return to within target range at 34.1%.

Dr Gary Weiss, Cromwell Chair, commented: “The current operating environment continues to be challenging with higher interest rates impacting the real estate sector. We remain focused on strengthening our balance sheet through prudent capital management and lowering our net debt position.

Despite the challenges, we continue to drive positive like-for-like net operating income growth and maintain solid occupancy rates across Cromwell’s Australian Investment Portfolio. In Europe, the funds management business contributed to earnings growth through mandate investments, notwithstanding restrained transaction volumes.”

The Australian Investment Portfolio

Like-for-like net operating income in the Australian Investment Portfolio was up 1%, reinforcing the ongoing income stability of the portfolio through the current market cycle. Operating earnings were down 3.2% on the prior corresponding period to $78.0 million, driven by asset sales, which was partially offset by an uplift in rental income.

Occupancy and weighted average lease expiry remained healthy at 93.4% and 5.3 years respectively. This high-quality portfolio offers attractive sustainability credentials and strong tenant relationships, which resulted in continued leasing success with approximately 12,000 sqm leased over the period.

While the trend towards flexible working arrangements has presented a challenge for landlords of office property, the market shows signs of stabilising, with evidence of stronger leasing demand from small to medium-sized occupiers, who made up the bulk of the new leases signed throughout the period.

Fund and Asset Management

Third party assets under management were $8.3 billion made up of $5.9 billion assets under management in Europe and $2.4 billion in Australia and New Zealand.

In Europe, earnings were up 36.2% on HY2023 due to higher leasing fees and positive foreign exchange impacts. Cromwell remains an active buyer, with new mandates from institutional capital partners for logistics assets, while the Cromwell European REIT (CEREIT) continues its pivot to owning majority logistics assets, leveraging continued tenant demand for this asset class.

Locally, Australian and New Zealand fund management activities slowed somewhat, with more limited inflows and valuation declines impacting Cromwell’s fund management fees.

Co-investments

The Cromwell Direct Property Fund has been impacted by 8.4% valuation headwinds, with Cromwell’s 4.2% position in the fund valued at $13.6 million. Distributions for the period remained consistent at $0.5 million.

The share of operating profit from Cromwell’s 27.8% holding in CEREIT was marginally up at $20.3 million. Over the 6 months, the value of CEREIT’s portfolio was down marginally to €2.3 billion
(-1.5%). Income grew 4.1% over the prior corresponding period on a like-for-like basis and leasing renewals drove a 5.7% increase in total portfolio rent reversion.

The Cromwell Italy Urban Logistics Fund continues to provide stable returns from the sole tenant, DHL, returning a $1.0 million share of earnings for the half-year, following the completion of a 50% sale to a joint venture partner.

CPRF portfolio income was up 31.3%, underpinned by higher rental income and positive foreign exchange movements over the six months. The sale of the CPRF Sale Portfolio2 is ongoing with a letter of intent signed and the purchaser having made a binding commitment to complete the deal on agreed terms subject to finance and no material adverse changes, backed by a material deposit. Cromwell anticipates completion on agreed terms in fourth quarter of financial year ended 30 June 2024.

Outlook

Commenting on the outlook Jonathan Callaghan, Cromwell Chief Executive Officer, said: “The remainder of the financial year will focus on business simplification and completing the current stage of our asset sale programme, including the sale of CPRF.

“We remain committed to preserving and growing securityholder value over time. Our core priority is to have a strong balance sheet by continuing to reduce debt to alleviate gearing pressures, along with ensuring we can continue to deliver stable income from our investments.

“As the market starts to recover, we anticipate being in a position to explore value accretive opportunities to provide longer term growth for our securityholders,” he said.

To view the HY24 Results Presentation, click here.

1 Represents CPRF assets for sale, excluding Ursynów.
2 Represents Cromwell Polish Retail Fund assets for sale, excluding Ursynów.

Cromwell to manage Finnish logistics portfolio

Home News

06/02/2024

Real estate investor and fund manager Cromwell Property Group (ASX:CMW) (Cromwell or Group) has been appointed manager of a portfolio of five logistics assets in Finland acquired by Goldman Sachs from Inmark Asset Management.

Leased to Posti Group Corporation, the state-owned delivery and fulfilment company with operations in Finland, Sweden and the broader Baltic region, the assets comprise at total of 134,000 sqm of space located in the dominant cities of Tuusula (part of the Helsinki metropolitan area), Tampere, Pirkkala, Oulu and Kuopio.

Commenting on the acquisitions, Pontus Flemme Gärdsell, Head of Northern Europe at Cromwell Property Group, said: “Leased to a strong covenant, these assets provide an excellent investment opportunity in the Nordic logistics market. We anticipate more transactional activity this year in Finland as inflation continues to come down and we have a better understanding of the impact of the ongoing war in Ukraine.”

Over the past 12 months, we have seen a heightened interest from overseas investors in well located assets in this sector across Finland.”

The Nordics represents one of Europe’s most established markets for logistics assets and is supported by strong operating fundamentals, including resilient demand, limited supply, and low vacancy rates. Cromwell manages more than €350 million of assets across Finland, Sweden and Denmark.

Nervesa21 office redevelopment in Milan 70% pre-let

Home News

22/01/2024

Real estate investor and fund manager Cromwell Property Group (ASX:CMW) (Cromwell or Group) has, on behalf of CEREIT, pre-let 70% of available space at the Nervesa21 office development in Milan, leaving only 3,000 sq m of space remaining.

Anchor tenant Universal Music Group, a world leader in music-based entertainment, pre-leased eight floors a year before completion. Scalapay, the first Italian “unicorn” and one of the biggest European BNPL (“buy now, pay later”) providers, signed a pre-lease for two floors and Edelman, an award-winning global communications consultancy firm, pre-leased one floor.

The redevelopment works are largely finished, with the premises successfully delivered to tenants pending some final minor works to be completed in January 2024.

Nervesa21 was re-configured to offer 14 modern floors, a modular flexible layout, premium amenities, two rooftop terraces and four panoramic elevators.

Developed with a strong focus on ESG, the redevelopment includes 5,300 sqm of external green garden leisure space, end-of-trip bicycle facilities and 230 parking spaces – some of which will have electric vehicle charging stations and will be powered by a combination of on-site renewable energy from solar panels and energy sourced from 100% renewable energy suppliers. Up to 50% of the façade is composed of low-carbon glass that, thanks to its integrated value chain, is expected to achieve up to 40% reduction of the embodied carbon footprint of the glass. Upon completion, the redevelopment is expected to attain LEED Platinum and WELL Gold certifications, making it one of the most advanced Grade-A offices in terms of ESG and energy efficiency, with reduced energy consumption of up to 40% compared to similar buildings.

Nervesa21 is strategically located in the Porta Romana district of Milan, south-east of Milan’s city centre. The asset is near Corso Lodi and has direct access to the A1 highway, the Linate Airport and the Central Station.

Commenting on the lettings, Michael Bohde, Head of Southern Europe at Cromwell Property Group, said: “To have pre-let 70% of the space at Nervesa21 is a fantastic endorsement of the office development’s credentials. As our new occupiers commence fit-out work, we are experiencing a strong level of interest in the remaining space from businesses attracted by the building’s ‘oasis-like’ location close to Milan’s bustling city centre.

“The successful execution of this project provides further evidence that occupiers are increasingly focused on ESG criteria when selecting an office location, seeking the best quality space with modern staff facilities, good access to public transport, parking and high energy efficiency. Office buildings with these features are in undersupply across Europe’s major cities.”

Cromwell was advised by CBRE and DILS on the lettings, the general contractors Nessi & Majocchi and the architects at DEGW / Lombardini 22.

Cromwell releases full scope 3 inventory, sets short and long-term emission reduction targets

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22/01/2024

Real estate investor and fund manager Cromwell Property Group (ASX:CMW) has today released for the first time its full scope 3 emissions inventory, becoming one of the few Australian commercial property organisations to publish its emissions footprint across 100% of its global network and supply chain.

The inventory release covers all Cromwell scope 3 emissions across upstream and downstream activities, covering its entire supply chain of tenant activities; funds under management; joint ventures; and embodied carbon sources. It goes further than general sector reporting practices, where disclosure is often limited to scope 3 emissions where a company possesses operational control.

Alongside the disclosure of its scope 3 emissions inventory, Cromwell has today also released new short and long-term emission reduction targets which will help underpin future decarbonisation efforts.

This includes a net zero target across Cromwell’s entire portfolio for scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions by 2045, which includes tenant emissions and embodied carbon. In addition, Cromwell has also set a short-term target of a 42% reduction in scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 2030, along with a net zero target for new developments by 2030 and 2035 for all assets under Cromwell’s operational control.

Group Head of ESG, Lara Young, said: “Developing a full scope 3 inventory provides us with an accurate and meaningful picture of all emissions across our supply chain for the first time. It enables us to make more informed investment decisions on decarbonisation activities, working with our partners.

“Specifically, we have now shifted our focus to asset-level decarbonisation. In the last year, we have started to undertake assessments at specific sites to identify emissions sources and create bespoke plans to reduce these emissions, which we will do working in partnership with our service providers. We’ll continue this process going forward.”

Case studies

Cromwell has recorded positive progress across its current decarbonisation and emissions reduction activities, with scope 1 and 2 emissions reducing by 44% since FY22 and a 19% reduction across scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions since FY22. Examples of initiatives include:

  • The large-scale electrification upgrade of the 24-storey McKell Building, converting the existing commercial gas-fired heating system to an electric heat recovery reverse cycle heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This was a first of its size for the Sydney CBD and will achieve a 5% reduction in total building electricity consumption.
  • Cromwell’s solar programme which now includes 502kw of solar installation in Australia, which has reduced annual emissions by 538tCO2e, or up to 52% at each site. Cromwell is planning an additional five solar projects in Australia and three in Europe in FY24 to further reduce emissions.
  • Investing in sustainable technology and materials, including the refurbishment of CEREIT Nervesa 21 in Italy, where innovative and low-carbon glass was used instead of standard glass, which helped to record a significant reduction in the building’s embodied emissions.

ESG Report

The information above has been released today as part of Cromwell’s FY23 ESG Report. The full report can be found here.
In summary, the ESG Report highlights Cromwell’s long-term targets which include:

  • Achieve net zero operational emissions (scope 1 & 2) by 2035.
  • Achieve net zero operational emissions for the entire portfolio (scopes 1, 2, & 3) including tenant and embodied carbon by 2045.
  • Significantly reduce our gender pay gap year on year.
  • Achieve 40:40:20 workplace gender diversity at all levels.
  • Integrate ESG into risk registers and business strategy, including objectives and key results.

“Cromwell recognises the challenges that the property industry faces; however, we also recognise the opportunity to deliver tangible positive impacts. The Group has a global in-house ESG team and dedicated Australian and European teams that support all Cromwell activities,” said Ms. Young.

Cromwell reorganises European operations

Home News

07/12/2023

Real estate investor and fund manager Cromwell Property Group (ASX:CMW) (Cromwell or Group) today announced the reorganisation of its European operations to be more aligned with its investors’ strategies, and to improve efficiency in the current challenging market environment.

The reorganisation involves the creation of a regional structure comprising two European regions, which will be headed by Pontus Flemme Gärdsell for Northern Europe, and by Michael Bohde for Southern Europe, both reporting directly to Andy Creighton, Head of Investment Management, Europe. These two regions will replace the former structure, where each country had its own country head.

Pontus will be responsible for managing Cromwell’s investment and asset management activities in the Nordics, the Netherlands, the UK and CEE while Michael will be responsible for managing Germany, France and Italy.

Commenting on the changes, Pertti Vanhanen, Managing Director, Europe at Cromwell Property Group, said: “By streamlining our European business, we will be able to provide a greater focus on the countries our investors are showing most interest in. It will also enable us to improve operational efficiencies in the current challenging macro-economic environment, providing our clients with more integrated cross-border investment and asset management services”.

In the past 18 months, Cromwell has been active across Europe and the UK servicing longstanding mandates with clients such as CEREIT, the Singapore-listed REIT, as well as several new international mandates and marketing new strategies to investors.

Vanhanen, added: “Since the onset of higher interest rates, the market has changed significantly as investors and managers adjust strategies to cope with the higher cost of finance and structural changes impacting the sector. Foremost among these are how we improve the sustainability and carbon footprint of real estate assets and how we reposition buildings in sectors like offices where behaviours have changed”.

Cromwell has made significant progress in these areas, implementing a sustainable finance framework to support the transition to more sustainable borrowing across its portfolio and is currently premarketing a value-add office repositioning strategy in the UK.

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Cromwell achieves new highs results in Global Real Estate ESG Assessment

Home News
November 28, 2023

Cromwell achieves new highs results in Global Real Estate ESG Assessment

Real estate investor and fund manager Cromwell Property Group (ASX:CMW) (Cromwell) has delivered record high company benchmarks in the annual Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) global rankings.

GRESB is an independent organisation that provides validated ESG performance data and peer benchmarks for investors and managers to improve business intelligence, industry engagement, and strategic decision-making.

The 2023 GRESB ESG Benchmark has become increasingly competitive, growing to cover more than USD$ 8.8 trillion of gross asset value across 2,084 real estate entities. GRESB data is utilised as an investment decision-making tool by over 170 institutional investors with more than US$51 trillion AUM.

Group Head of ESG, Lara Young, said Cromwell Property Group our longstanding participation in the assessment is a good opportunity for the organisation to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to enhance its ESG performance and test itself against the worldwide market.

Participation in GRESB is Cromwell’s opportunity to measure our ESG performance against our peers, and this year’s efforts have not disappointed.
Lara Young – Group Head of ESG, Cromwell Property Group

“Participation in GRESB is Cromwell’s opportunity to measure our ESG performance against our peers, and this year’s efforts have not disappointed.” said Ms. Young.

  • The Singapore-based Cromwell European Real Estate Investment Trust (CEREIT) achieved a record-high overall score of 85 points in the 2023 GRESB Real Estate Assessment, with full marks for social and governance aspects. CEREIT was awarded a four-star rating – up from a three-star rating last year – and achieved a public disclosure score of a perfect 100, placing first out of its five peers.
  • The Cromwell Diversified Property Trust (DPT) maintained its score of 87 points, ranking 28th out of 41 participating listed Australian office portfolios and achieving 95 out of 100 (A Grade) for public disclosure. With Australia’s real estate sector leading the world in sustainability, ranking first in GRESB for the last 12 consecutive years, DPT has consistently performed well against the hyper-competitive local market.
  • Cromwell Polish Retail Fund (CPRF) achieved a five-star rating and a record-high overall score of 90 points, ranking 11th out of 32 European retail non-listed peer funds and 17th out of 87 in the European Retail category.

 

“Not only have we exceeded our previous overall scores, but for all three disclosing portfolios -CEREIT, CPRF, and Cromwell’s investment portfolio, DPT – we have increased our scores across all categories, placing them well above global and industry peer averages,” said Ms. Young.

“These results would not be possible without a huge team effort and collaboration from our investors, tenants, supply chain partners, and the broader Cromwell team, and we would once again like to share our thanks to everyone involved.”

Cromwell will publish its FY23 ESG report in early December 2023.