GIC taps Goldman Sachs for $800m-plus lifestyle communities group Serenitas

Sep 8, 2022

By Bridget Carter, The Australian

Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC is understood to have hired Goldman Sachs to test market interest for its $800m-plus Australian lifestyle communities business Serenitas.

The company is thought to be worth between $800m and $1bn and the understanding is that the US investment bank has been sounding out buyers for a potential sale by GIC, although a formal sale process is not underway.

Serenitas was formed when GIC and Tasman Capital Partners purchased Western Australia-based National Lifestyle Villages in 2018 from Navis Capital and Blackstone and the business is jointly owned by the parties. The founder and chief executive of Serenitas is Rob Nichols, who was the former chief operating officer of the listed modulated housing provider Gateway Lifestyle.

Gateway was purchased in 2018 by US-based Hometown America for $685m or $942m including debt.

Serenitas owns various land lease communities, including Thyme Lifestyle Resorts, National Lifestyle Villages, which is the market leader in WA, The Vantage at Vasse, The Outlook at Albany, RV Homebase Fraser Coast and a pipeline of communities under development for over 50s land lease living.

Some believe that the sale of the business is odd timing, given that the booming real estate market conditions during the global pandemic have changed with rising interest rates.

GIC’s move to exit Serenitas comes after it recently pulled out of a deal to buy Brookfield and Blackstone’s $2.1bn tower complex in Melbourne.

However, at an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Sydney on Australia’s Residential Property Outlook on Wednesday, a panel of experts described buoyant conditions in some regional real estate markets such as Hervey Bay in Queensland.

Guest speaker, billionaire Meriton apartments developer Harry Triguboff, described booming real estate conditions on Queensland’s Gold Coast and tipped Brisbane as a market staging strong price gains, with workers moving to the Queensland state capital due to its relative affordability compared to Melbourne or Sydney.

Simon Owen, chief executive of the Australian listed holiday park and lifestyle communities owner Ingenia, described during the panel discussion an uplift in demand for weekend accommodation in holiday parks due to couples with children working from home keen to have a break from their residence.

Manufactured housing estates work where an operator owns the land and rents the site to residents, who buy the relocatable home for the site.

Owned by groups like Ingenia and Serenitas, they are growing in popularity as they are seen as a way to address housing affordability challenges and are more prominent in the United States.

Recently, retirement village provider GemLife, which has been on the market, has attracted interest from super funds Aware Super and AustralianSuper, but they have both walked away from the $2bn opportunity.

Yet they would likely be in the mix for Serenitas, say sources.

The Australian listed building materials and property company Maas Group also took a look at GemLife but did not bid.

Meanwhile, a sale process for Infratil and NZ Super’s $1bn RetireAustralia retirement village owner is underway, launching after Stockland sold its retirement villages business to EQT private equity for $987m earlier this year.