CHICAGO-Real estate investment banker Cohen Financial is in negotiations to acquire three regional real estate investment banks, company officials say. As part of Cohen’s national expansion push, the firm announced it has acquired Portland, OR-based realty finance concern West Coast Mortgage & Investment Banking Inc.

“We are in negotiations to acquire three more regional real estate investment banks,” says Steve Spayer, director of brand management at Cohen, which acted as agent, principal or advisor in $2.7 billion worth of real estate transactions last year. “I can’t tell you more than that, except to say that we expect to close on these deals by the end of the year.”

West Coast is the ninth acquisition in a series of purchases that began for Cohen Financial in the 1980s. “We plan to become national,” says Spayer. “That doesn’t mean we’ll have offices everywhere, but we plan to expand in key locations.” Cohen has nine regional locations, including offices in Denver, San Francisco and Houston.

The 22-year old company engages in a wide range of real estate investment banking operations, including debt and equity placement, direct investment and investment management. Spayer says Cohen recently completed a $32-million “value creation” play for 111 Sutter St. in San Francisco. The building’s owner wanted to take advantage of escalating rents in Downtown San Francisco, so Cohen arranged short-term financing to allow for repayment of old debt and the upgrade of mechanical equipment in the building.

The new financing will allow 111 Sutter more time to negotiate better lease agreements with existing tenants or, failing that, allow for more time to let old leases expire. The new lease arrangements will put the building’s owners in a better position to ask a higher price for 111 Sutter when they decide to sell.

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