LONDON—Commercial brokerage firm Avison Young and Apleona Limited, a portfolio company owned by global private-equity firm EQT, report they have entered into a definitive agreement for Avison Young to acquire Apleona subsidiary GV, one of the U.K.’s leading and most diverse real estate advisory-led businesses.
Toronto-based Avison Young will combine GVA with Avison Young’s existing U.K. operations. The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of 2019.
London-based GVA has 1,500 employees in 15 offices in the U.K., Ireland and Poland. GVA is also a founding member and majority shareholder of GVA Worldwide Ltd., an international organization of licensed affiliate commercial real estate companies with offices across 25 countries.
“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome GVA to Avison Young,” says Mark E. Rose, chair and CEO of Avison Young. “This is a transformational event that underpins our ambition and intent to significantly expand our footprint in Europe and beyond. Avison Young’s U.K. business will now be a genuine challenger brand firmly established among the top commercial real estate advisors in the U.K., North America and the world.”
He adds the deal adds “gravitas, weight, coverage and profile to our international operations as we continue to solidify our global platform while preserving our culture as a Principal-led company. Avison Young and GVA have complementary businesses in the U.K., and this combination of expertise and talent will better equip us to serve global clients.”
Avison Young currently has 2,700 real estate professionals in 85 offices in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the U.K., Germany, Romania and Korea. Upon the closing of the purchase of GVA Worldwide, the combined operations will have 5,000-plus professionals in more than 120 offices across 25 countries. The combined operations of Avison Young will have 19 offices and 1,600 employees in the U.K. alone.
GVA operates 25 business units across the following sectors and disciplines: planning, development and regeneration; land and development; business rates; valuation consultancy; telecommunications; restructuring and recovery; energy and natural resources; lease consultancy; corporate solutions; health; GVA Worldwide; GVA Poland; Second London Wall project management; building consultancy; rights of light; investment; retail, hotels and leisure; offices; London agency and investment; industrial and distribution; automotive and roadside; property management; workplace consultancy; West End management; and asset management.
Andreas Aschenbrenner, partner at EQT Partners, Investment Advisor to EQT, says, “We are thrilled to have found the perfect long-term home for GVA in Avison Young, which is committed to continuing the growth strategy that GVA embarked on under EQT ownership. I am confident that GVA and Avison Young together will flourish, and I am excited to see GVA and Avison Young grow further to become one of the leading real estate advisors worldwide. The sale also marks another important step in transforming Apleona into the leading European provider of real estate management services.”
GVA has a broad customer portfolio of national and international clients, including U.K. public institutions, multinational corporations, major space users, developers, owners, lenders and investors.
Gerry Hughes, chief executive of GVA, says: “To say I am delighted by this deal is an understatement. We could not have asked for a better outcome for the GVA business, our clients and our staff. We now enter a new era as a key component of a global real estate advisory platform, which will allow us to further flourish and better serve global clients.”
No financial terms of the transaction were released. However, in connection with the GBA purchase announcement, Avison Young reports it intends to optimize its capital structure through a recapitalization. The acquisition and the refinancing will be funded through a combination of cash on hand, a committed financing from Credit Suisse, and additional common equity, including participation by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Avison Young’s existing employees as well as issuance of shares to GVA employees who will become Avison Young Principals and certain other GVA employees. Avison Young has ample capital to further invest in its global growth, the company stated.
Avison Young announced on July 16 that CDPQ, one of Canada’s leading institutional fund managers, has made a C$250-million preferred equity investment to accelerate Avison Young’s strategic growth plan. Avison Young made its first investment under its strategic partnership with CDPQ by acquiring leading U.K. firm Wilkinson Williams LLP and opening a new office in London’s West End on August 1. On Oct. 10, Avison Young opened its first office in Asia, in Seoul, South Korea, with 63 members joining from Mate Plus Advisors Co. Ltd.
Credit Suisse and KPMG LLP are acting as Avison Young’s financial advisors in the transaction; and Gowling WLG (UK), DLA Piper LLP (US) and Stikeman Elliott LLP (Canada) are serving as Avison Young’s legal advisors. BofA Merrill Lynch is acting as EQT’s and Apleona’s financial advisor; and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP is serving as EQT’s and Apleona’s legal advisor.