Brookfield Back In Canada With Diversified Property Investment Strategy

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Canada’s real estate market makes bank. Enough so that now Brookfield Property Partners, an offshoot of Brookfield Asset Management, is returning to Canada after years of accruing billions of dollars through foreign investments.

Now its strategy is to seek a diversified range of property investments – from Canadian hotels to condo developments. With pockets as deep as they come, Brookfield is up for  basically anything large-scale.

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This June, for example, Brookfield Property announced a partnership with InterRent REIT and CLV Group to develop a huge multi-family, mixed-use development on the Burlington GO Lands. Now the new regional head of Brookfield’s Canadian division, 43-year old Ashley Lawrence, will lead the race against other like-minded investors to pour its billions into asset-strong developments in Canadian cities.

“My mandate was to grow and to expand, especially in sectors that we are not in,” said Lawrence, who returned to Toronto in June, 2018 after managing Brookfield’s retail property division in New York for two years. Since that time, he’s more than doubled the company’s Canadian investments.

“We have certain things we are looking for. Not every deal has them. In order to find them, you have to evaluate a lot of deals in the market,” he said.

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With over $194 billion in assets around the world, just 4.6 per cent of them Canadian, Lawrence wants to push the envelope. The goal is to go beyond the two dozen or so office towers he manages in Ottawa, Calgary and Toronto, including the 72-storey tower First Canadian Place.

In comparison, Brookfield has US$137-billion in assets under management in the United States, US$31-billion in Europe and the Middle East, US$14-billion in the Asia-Pacific region and US$3-billion in Brazil, according to its most recent investor presentation. With over $137 billion in assets in the U.S. alone, Brookfield’s track record includes a massive collection of malls and rental apartments throughout the country. In Europe, Brookfield owns part of the Canary Wharf business hub in London and a significant office and residential development in Dubai.

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“As we have grown globally, we have gone into a lot of sectors that we are not in in Canada,” Mr. Lawrence said.

“In order to do that you have to spend a lot of time out in the market, talking to people, making relationships,” he said. “It takes time and effort.”

Part of that effort will be towards developing the best strategies to compete with pension funds, real-estate investment trusts for a piece of the rental real estate market. The affordable housing crisis has generated an investment flurry in cities like Toronto and Vancouver.

“It takes a long time to get these developments out. These are not coming in the next 24 months. This is 10-15 year horizons,” he said. “We are relatively patient in terms of finding the right opportunity.”

It’s the kind of patience billions of dollars can buy.

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