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BlackBerry properties could fetch $300-million

BlackBerry logos and flags are seen at the company's offices in Waterloo, Ont., in this file photo.

matthew sherwood The Globe and Mail

BlackBerry Ltd.'s sale of the bulk of its Canadian real estate attracted a large number of bidders and could raise something in the neighbourhood of $300-million, sources say.

The Globe and Mail first reported that BlackBerry was considering selling its real estate last fall, as the company sought to shore up its finances in the face of declining revenues. It officially put the collection of properties on the market in January, when it hired brokerage firm CBRE Ltd. to handle the sale. Last week, BlackBerry announced that it had struck a deal for the portfolio, which includes more than 3 million square feet of space as well as vacant lands, but that it wouldn't announce who bought it or for how much until the deal closes.

The company noted that the deal, which is part of its effort to shift its resources towards its operations, is still conditional and that "the transaction may not be completed on the negotiated terms, or at all."

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Sources suggested that a number of potential buyers looked at the real estate, including Brookfield Asset Management, Oakville-based Belmont Equity Partners in partnership with U.S.-based Hackman Capital Partners, KingSett Capital and U.S.-based Spear Street Capital. The first two on that list did not buy the properties, according to sources.

Sources also indicated that BlackBerry subdivided the portfolio into three main groups: one centred around Mississauga, one around Ottawa and one around Waterloo and Cambridge. But some bidders were interested in the whole package.

BlackBerry will lease back the space that it uses, generally for five-year terms. Sources indicated that one of the considerations bidders had was estimating how much space BlackBerry will be using in the future.

Sources indicated that the price that BlackBerry has received meets its expectations, and is at the high end of what some real estate industry players anticipated.

The company parcelled off some properties. In December it announced that the University of Waterloo had bought five buildings from it for $41-million.

In last week's press release announcing the deal, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said that "the successful sale of property in Canada will help us move toward our goal of continued operational efficiency. As previously stated, BlackBerry remains committed to having a strong presence in Canada and we continue to consider Waterloo home to our global headquarters."

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