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Island-based firm in bid to buy Canary Wharf

A Bermuda-based global property firm has teamed up with the Qatar government's investment arm in a fresh multibillion dollar bid to take over the owners of London's financial district Canary Wharf.

Hamilton's Brookfield Property Partners and the Qatar Investment Authority put in an offer for Songbird Estates, valued at $4 billion, which controls the massive office and shop development built on the site of the former London docks.

Brookfield and the Qatar Investment Authority already own a significant stake in the Canary Wharf Group, which operates the area, the second-largest financial district in London, or its parent company Songbird.

Brookfield has a 22.08 per cent interest in the Canary Wharf Group, while the Qatari fund owns 28.6 per cent of Songbird.

Ric Clark, CEO of Brookfield, said: “As long-term investors in Canary Wharf, we are pleased to be in a position to make this compelling offer to the shareholders of Songbird.

“It provides shareholders with the opportunity to realise the very significant increase in value that Songbird has experienced over the last year.”

And he added: “The offer is being made as Canary Wharf embarks on an ambitious development programme that will alter its risk profile.”

Last month, Songbird rejected a takeover fund by the two — insisting that the $3.5 billion offer did not reflect the value of the company.

The original bid of $4.62 in cash per share valued Songbird at around $3.47 billion, but Brookfield and the Qatar fund has upped the offer to $5.48 per share in cash — 33.6 per cent above the share price when the original bid was announced.

Brookfield is one of the world's largest owners, operators and investors in property with investments in $95 billion in real estate and interests in 275 million square feet of commercial space globally around the world.

The bid is the joint venture's final cash offer and both companies ruled out another hike, describing the bid price as “full and fair”.

Songbird owns close to 70 per cent of the Canary Wharf Group, a controlling interest acquired in 2004 and delisted its shares. In June last year, Canary Wharf Group's real estate holdings were valued at more than $9.8 billion.

Canary Wharf was once the centre of the largest docks in the world, but the introduction of containerisation killed off the industry and the main port for London moved down the Thames River to Tilbury.

The last dock closed in 1980 and the area remained derelict until it was turned into an enterprise zone, with the first new buildings in the office complex opening in the early 1990s.

The area now features 35 four office buildings and nearly 700,000 square feet of retail space.

Canary Wharf Group also controls development land for a further 9.8 million square feet of property in and around the estate, including 3.3 million square feet of higher-value homes.

The oil-rich middle eastern state's Qatar Investment Authority already owns significant chunks of London's real estate, including the landmark Shard building, the luxury department store Harrod's and the former Olympic Village in the east end of the city, built for the 2012 games.

Prime real estate: No 1 Canada Square (centre left) stands with skyscrapers housing the offices of HSBC Holdings, Citigroup, and Barclays, in the Canary Wharf financial district in London

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Published December 05, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 04, 2014 at 7:06 pm)

Island-based firm in bid to buy Canary Wharf

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