Reuters: PE Firm Northstar Leads Buyout of Singapore’s Biggest Property Broker ERA

(Reuters) – Northstar Group, a private equity firm owned by Indonesian investor Patrick Walujo, has led a management buyout of Singapore’s biggest property broker, ERA Real Estate, its second major deal in Singapore in less than a year and a sign of growing interest in the city’s real estate market.

Singapore, one of Asia’s major financial centres, is a popular destination for the world’s wealthy due to its minimal taxes, low crime rate and cosmopolitan environment. Private equity firms remain keen on the market despite government efforts to cool private home prices that have risen more than 60 percent since mid-2009, largely due to low interest rates.

The Northstar-led group is paying around S$130 million ($103 million) to purchase ERA from Hersing Corp, a source familiar with the deal told Reuters. Northstar did not disclose the price.

Northstar, in which U.S. buyout firm TPG Capital Management LP has a minority stake, was competing against several private equity bidders including Blackstone Group LP and Affinity Equity Partners, sources told Reuters.

Blackstone and Affinity officials were not immediately available to comment. ERA is the market leader in the real estate broking business in Singapore with more than 5,100 sales agents, a statement said.

Jack Chua, who has been with Hersing group for more than two decades, is leading the group of senior ERA executives in the buyout that are co-investing with Northstar in the ERA business.

Northstar, which manages $1.2 billion and is headquartered in Singapore, is also in the process of acquiring the Asia Pacific Master Franchise of ERA covering 18 countries in the region, it said.

Macquarie advised the seller, Hersing Corp, which controls ERA. Hersing itself was taken private last year.

Northstar, founded by former Goldman Sachs’s banker Walujo, last year bought a majority stake in Singapore-listed Nera Telecommunications Ltd and has offered to buy the entire company for around $146 million.