The prospect of higher rents across the Greater Toronto Area helped Continuum Residential Real Estate Investment Trust fetch a $1.72-billion takeover offer, just two days before an expected initial public offering.

“We knew that the portfolio was very valuable, and it was not valuable because of what it was making today. It was valuable because of what it could make in the next two or three years,” Continuum REIT president and chief executive officer Daniel Argiros said of Starlight Investments’ successful takeover offer in a BNN Bloomberg interview on Tuesday.

“We had a gap in our rents – between our in-place rents and our market rents – of over 30 per cent and that was the reason for the strong order book on the IPO,” he added. “The buyer recognized the value of that gap and was willing to pay for that gap.”

Continuum had looking to raise about $300 million through an IPO, said Argiros. However, the initial marketing process for the offering resulted in an order book of more than $1 billion ahead of the expected IPO.

Michelle Wearing discusses Continuum REIT

Michelle Wearing of Starlight Capital gives her outlook for Continuum REIT.

Michelle Wearing, a portfolio manager at Starlight Capital, called the potential IPO a smart play on Toronto’s housing market on BNN Bloomberg’s Market Call on Oct. 31.

“These are quality assets (and) a good management team,” she said. “If you really think Toronto real estate is extremely hot this is going to be the best way to play it.”

Argiros said potential buyers started getting serious about acquiring Continuum’s 44 apartment buildings – mostly in Toronto and Hamilton – once they saw the interest from investors.

“We spent about a year getting ready for the process, and during that time we put out feelers to see if anybody was interested in the portfolio and we had a lot of inquiries. But, only after we filed the prospectus did we start getting even more calls,” Argiros told BNN Bloomberg.

Starlight currently manages more than $11 billion worth of direct real estate and real estate investment securities. The company has been on a buying spree of late. In October alone the company announced the completion of apartment acquisitions in Barrie, Burlington, London and Mississauga, Ontario.  

In September, Starlight’s $69.9 million offer to purchase the Portage Place mall in downtown Winnipeg was approved by government regulators.