January 2, 2018 / 9:41 AM / 3 months ago

Stockmann puts for sale sign on Helsinki book store property

HELSINKI, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Department store chain Stockmann is planning to sell a well known building in Helsinki, which has an estimated book value of around 100 million euros ($120 million), to cash in on a booming market for commercial property in the Finnish capital.

A possible sale of the “Book House” in the heart of Helsinki — together with a long-planned property sale in St Petersburg — would help the indebted company which posted a core quarterly loss for the third quarter.

In November, Stockmann put its real estate assets including the “Book House” forward as collateral for a new refinancing package.

“Values in Helsinki are record high at the moment, and as we don’t practise retail business in this property any longer, we will start investigating a possible divestment,” said Bjorn Teir, Director for Real Estate at Stockmann.

Teir did not give a book value for the Book House, designed by architect Alvar Aalto and built in 1969. Analyst Sauli Vilen from research firm Inderes gave a rough estimate of around 100 million euros.

Stockmann used to sell books there itself but sold that business to Sweden’s Bonnier in 2015.

Shares in the company, which fell about 40 percent last year, were up 5.2 percent at 4.58 euros by 0915 GMT.

Stockmann has been negotiating with investment company O1 Group on the sale of its St Petersburg department store property, which has a book value of 181 million euros. The process continues, Stockmann said.

The total fair value of Stockmann’s real estate assets is 950 million euros, the majority of which is estimated to be made up of the company’s Helsinki flagship department store.

The company, known for its premium department stores, has struggled in recent years due to slowdowns in Finland and Russia as well as a consumer shift to online shopping. ($1 = 0.8309 euros) (Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Keith Weir)

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