Canadian pension plan Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System has been talking with major U.S. and Canadian private equity firms about selling land registry company Teranet in a deal that could fetch about $3 billion (US$2.4 billion), according to people familiar with the situation.
Carlyle Group and KKR & Co are among several buyout firms that have held discussions with Borealis Infrastructure Management, an investment division of OMERS that owns Teranet, the people said on condition of anonymity, since the talks were private.
In 2008, Borealis acquired then-publicly listed Teranet Income Fund for about $1.5 billion. Teranet Income Fund was spun off by the Ontario government in 2003.
Toronto-based Teranet, which has exclusive rights to offer electronic land registration services in Ontario and Manitoba, collects a fee every time a home in Canada’s most populous province and its Western neighbor changes hands or is registered.
It also offers housing data services. Its Teranet-National Bank house price index, a collaboration with Canada’s sixth biggest bank, is a closely tracked economic indicator.
OMERS, Carlyle and KKR all declined to comment.
There is no certainty that a deal will materialize, the sources said, adding that OMERS could also choose to keep the asset. It was also not immediately clear if OMERS is running a formal sales process involving investment banks.
Teranet has benefited from the boom in Canada’s housing market, the people said. Canadian housing market prices soared over the past decade, with Ontario, home to capital city Ottawa and business centre Toronto, in particular seeing strong demand from foreign buyers. For example, Toronto prices rose 29.3 percent in the year to June 30, and have more than doubled since 2009.
The move by OMERS to consider offloading Teranet suggests that the pension fund believes it may be time to sell and take the returns when the market might be close to the top.
In April, the province of Ontario said it would introduce a property tax for foreign buyers in order to cool Toronto’s housing market. Concerns of a housing bubble have drawn warnings from both the Bank of Canada and the International Monetary Fund. While prices continue to rise, sales figures in Toronto have dipped in recent weeks.
Teranet’s cash flow stream makes it attractive for private equity buyers, who are looking for steady returns over long-term investment horizons.