(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Rene Benko’s property and retail company sold Austrian furniture stores to boost cash to fund development projects amid a crunch in commercial property prices and a squeeze on lending. Bonds issued by his conglomerate rallied.

Signa Group sold operating rights of the 40-store Kika and Leiner chains to former manager Herman Wieser. The related properties were sold to private real estate developer Supernova Invest GmbH, Signa said in a statement on Thursday. 

Supernova is paying almost €430 million ($459 million) for the properties, Die Presse newspaper said Thursday, without citing anyone. Signa declined to comment on financial details.

Benko’s company acquired the stores in 2017 and 2018 for a total of €490 million and has since sold its eastern European operations and other assets deemed non-strategic. It will hold on to Leiner’s former flagship store adjacent to Vienna’s museum district. The building is currently being converted into a luxury department store and hotel.

“From the perspective of Signa Group, the purchase of Kika/Leiner has been a very good investment, despite the difficult market environment,” Signa Holding Chief Executive Officer Christoph Stadlhuber said in the statement.

The move to carve out the former Leiner store in central Vienna is part of a recent strategy to isolate prime real estate from other operations. Signa also has separated the renowned KaDeWe luxury department store in Berlin from other operations of the the troubled Galleria chain in Germany, which faces a controversial insolvency process. 

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Benko’s property empire includes the Chrysler building in New York, Selfridges in London and several luxury buildings in Germany and Austria. The mogul’s operations have faced scrutiny for a reliance on price appreciation to shore up book gains. 

The Kika/Leiner sale comes as Benko has been seeking to raise €800 million to fund ongoing development projects in Venice, Hamburg and Vienna, React News reported last month. Signa sold a building hosting an Apple store in central Vienna for €95 million last month.

Bonds issued by Benko’s Signa Development jumped more than 5 cents on Thursday to 65 cents on the euro. They traded as low as 48 cents last month amid global headwinds for commercial real estate developers.

--With assistance from Libby Cherry.

(Adds bond reaction in first and last paragraphs)

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