(Bloomberg) -- The embattled landlord at the center of Sweden’s property crisis may look to sell the company following a plunge in the share price.
SBB — as Samhallsbyggnadsbolaget i Norden AB is more commonly known — has initiated a strategic review that could result in “a sale of the company, business segments, or specific assets, as well as other strategic transactions,” the board of directors said in a statement. Selling new shares is not in the scope of the review.
The stock price gained 9% when trading started in Stockholm on Monday but is still down more than 90% from a peak in 2021.
A sale of the company would mark a major reversal of fortunes for SBB’s Chief Executive Officer Ilija Batljan, who in seven years built up a $13 billion portfolio of social housing and municipal properties across the Nordic region.
Read More: The Face of Sweden’s Property Bust Fights for $13 Billion Empire
“The board believes that the underlying share value in the business is significantly higher than SBB’s current market value,” Batljan said by phone. “Because of this you have to look at the options that maximize shareholder value.”
Key to SBB’s aggressive growth had been a debt splurge that relied on cheap financing on the bond markets. But with bond yields, and hence borrowing costs, jumping higher, the company’s $8 billion debt pile suddenly became unsustainable. Facing calls from investors and credit rating firms to cut leverage, the firm pledged to sell 6 billion Swedish kronor ($556 million) of assets to shore up its balance sheet.
But the efforts to conserve cash didn’t go far enough, which the CEO also acknowledged on Monday. The target of 6 billion kronor “is very little in relation to a balance sheet of 160 billion kronor,” Batljan said.
It’s an assessment shared by the companies responsible for SBB’s public credit ratings. This month has seen the landlord stripped of its investment grade credit status — a vital tool to unlock cheap financing — at both S&P Global Rating and Fitch Ratings. The move by S&P on May 8 sparked panic among investors and led to a 40% slump in the share price. SBB was forced to postpone its dividend and scrap plans for an emergency sale of shares to shore up liquidity.
SBB’s “current financial constraints stem from receiving forms of deferred payments for assets devolved from the group, rather than immediate cash proceeds to deleverage,” Fitch said after the market close on Friday, having cut the landlord’s rating one step to BB+.
The uncertainty over financing has spooked stock investors and the stock ended last week at 4.9 kronor per share, its lowest level in nearly six years.
“What has led to the situation is the level where the company’s shares are traded,” Batljan said. SBB’s “market value deviates very strongly from the intrinsic value of our equity.”
“If we sell the entire company, we will want a very good price,” the CEO added.
(Adds shares in third paragraph.)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.