Whitehelm Capital (“Whitehelm”) and Pioneer Public Properties (“Pioneer”) are pleased to announce the acquisition of a portfolio of 11 Norwegian preschool properties from Gnist Barnehager AS (“Gnist”). The acquisition was completed by Pioneer, a Whitehelm portfolio company, on 14 January 2020
Pioneer is the owner of key social infrastructure assets in the Nordic region. The acquisition of the preschool properties from Gnist brings Pioneer’s portfolio to 174 preschool properties and 8 care home properties across Norway, Finland and Sweden.
The 11 preschool properties acquired are located in Norwegian residential areas of Møre og Romsdal, in the municipalities Giske, Ålesund, Sula, Hareid, Ulstein and Herøy, as well as in Bergen and Oppdal. The sale process represents a sale-leaseback, with Gnist remaining the operator of the preschools under long-term lease agreements.
The acquisition of the portfolio from Gnist is the first bolt-on acquisition undertaken by Pioneer after it was acquired by a consortium of Whitehelm investors in October 2019.
Pioneer is a key provider of social infrastructure in the Nordic region. The company derives the majority of its revenues from long term leases of social infrastructure, a sector that benefits from a stable regulatory regime and strong political support.
Whitehelm’s Senior Investment Director and acting Chief Executive of Pioneer, Wessel Schevernels, said “The acquisition of the portfolio from Gnist highlights Whitehelm’s commitment to growing Pioneer and furthering the very important societal role that Pioneer plays as the provider of preschool infrastructure across Norway, Finland and Sweden. We are excited by the long term relationship with Gnist”.
“We are happy to have partnered with Whitehelm and Pioneer for this sale-leaseback transaction. This transaction enables us to fully focus on providing the best service possible to our children and their parents”, said Maria Tallaksen, Chair of the Board of Gnist.
The acquisition of Gnist continues Whitehelm’s long history of successfully providing key infrastructure to local communities. In Norway, this includes not only the investment in Pioneer Public Properties, but also Kvitebjørn Varme, the operator of Tromsø’s district heating network, and SAE, a state-of-the-art energy-from-waste plant in Sarpsborg. Other of Whitehelm’s investment’s include Storrun Vindkraft, a 30MW onshore windfarm in Sweden, and ITE College West in Singapore, a technical college with over 7,000 full time students.
DNB Markets acted as Pioneer’s financial advisor, while Thommessen acted as legal advisor.
Gnist Barnehager is a chain of privately owned preschools located in Hordaland, Møre and Romsdal and Trøndelag. The chain currently comprises 17 preschools. Gnist is owned by Altor Fund IV and Grønmyr Gruppen.