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Manulife Revives Talk of Forming U.S. Office REIT Listed on Singapore Stock Exchange

Canadian Insurance Firm Seeks To Revive Singapore REIT IPO as a Goal for the New Year
January 6, 2016
Canada's Manulife Financial Corp. is still interested in listing a real estate investment trust backed by U.S. office properties on the Singapore Exchange after a planned initial public offering (IPO) was shelved last summer due to poor market conditions for REIT shares.

"We'd very much like to bring it back," Stephen Roder, Manulife's CFO, told reporters this week at the launch of a 15-year ATM tech partnership with Singapore's DBS Group Holdings Ltd.

Roder did not give an exact time frame or expected size of any IPO, only that it still has strong interest in such an offering.

Manulife had filed plans in June 2015 to set up a REIT offering on the Singapore Exchange backed by three of its owned U.S. office buildings. The properties backing the offering included The Michelson at 3161 Michelson Drive in Irvine, CA, a 19-story, 536,307-square-foot office building; the 21-story 515 S. Figueroa office tower in Los Angeles totaling 414,699 square feet; and 1850 M St. NW in Washington, DC, a 12-story, 243,635 -square-foot building.

Investor interest in REIT shares began to cool last July over market expectations of the Federal Reserve raising U.S. interest rates. After that, Manulife, and several existing REITs, shelved their capital raising plans.

But then, REIT share prices began to recover in the fourth quarter. And in a further good omen, BHG Retail REIT, the only REIT IPO to make its market debut on the Singapore Exchange last year, saw its share price rise following its trading debut. The REIT, backed by five retail properties in China, was advised by DBS Group Holdings, Manulife’s adviser as well.

If Manulife decides to pursue the same offering it originally proposed in June 2015, the IPO would create the largest REIT to be listed on the Singapore exchange in two years and the first U.S. property REIT available on the exchange in 10 years.

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