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Centerbridge, TowerBrook Explore $2 Billion Aareal Bank Takeover

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(Bloomberg) -- A consortium led by private equity firms Centerbridge Partners and TowerBrook is exploring a takeover of Aareal Bank AG valuing the German real estate lender at about 1.7 billion euros ($2 billion).

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The investor group, which also includes Advent International, has started talks on the potential acquisition of a majority stake in Aareal, according to a statement Thursday. They are considering a bid of 29 euros per share, Aareal said in the statement, which confirmed an earlier Bloomberg News report on their interest.

An offer at that level would represent a 23% premium to Aareal Bank’s Wednesday closing price. The lender has granted the consortium access to information on its business, though the outcome of the discussions is still open, it said.

Shares of Aareal rose as much as 27% on Thursday. They were up 21% to 28.46 euros at 4:30 p.m. in Frankfurt.

Aareal has been facing pressure from activist investors Teleios Capital and Petrus Advisers. Petrus has criticized Aareal for what it says are high costs and lack of a sustainable strategy, and is pushing for a separation of its software unit, Aareon.

Aareal complied with some demands but is resisting a full divestment of Aareon after selling a minority stake to Advent last year. The Boston-based private equity firm agreed to pay 260 million euros in cash for a 30% stake in Aareon, the bank said in August 2020.

Advent, Centerbridge and TowerBrook would add to a long list of private equity firms -- including the likes of Apollo Global Management Inc., Cerberus Capital Management LP and Lone Star Funds -- to have invested in German banks, one of the least profitable banking markets in Europe.

Still, any take-private of Aareal would likely see buyers’ credentials as potential bank owners closely scrutinized by regulators.

New York-based Centerbridge, which has $16.5 billion in private equity-related capital commitments, has eyed German financial targets before. Last year, it became a majority shareholder in digital consumer lending platform Auxmoney GmbH. And in 2019, it teamed up with Cerberus to bid for state lender NordLB, which rebuffed the attempt and ended up being bailed out by Germany’s savings banks and state government.

The value of Aareal’s commercial real estate portfolio stood at 27.9 billion euros at the end of last year, making it an attractive target for private equity firms looking to increase their exposure to the property market.

Read more: Aareal Shareholders Reject Banker Pay After Hedge Fund’s Revolt

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