SPH scraps purchase of Canada aged-care assets on Covid-19 'instabilities'

AMID the novel coronavirus outbreak, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will not be going ahead with its C$232.9 million (S$244.5 million) proposed acquisition of six senior housing properties in Canada.

The media and property group, which publishes The Business Times, had announced the deal last month, after its wholly-owned subsidiary Times Properties inked an agreement with affiliates of Columbia Pacific Advisors to buy the portfolio.

On Monday night, SPH said in a bourse filing: "The purchaser and the vendor have mutually agreed not to proceed with the acquisition and to terminate the agreement as a matter of prudence in the light of global market instabilities caused by the Covid-19 pandemic."

SPH had said in February that the proposed acquisition was subject to satisfactory due diligence. It had been expected to complete by May this year.

The six freehold assets in Canada comprise five independent living properties in Ontario and one assisted living property in Saskatchewan.

SPH said the termination of the agreement will not have any material adverse impact on its consolidated net tangible assets or earnings per share for the fiscal year ending Aug 31, 2020.

Canada has reported more than 2,000 cases of the coronavirus as at March 23, while neighbouring United States has the third-largest number of cases in the world, totalling over 43,600, behind China and Italy.

Meanwhile, SPH in February announced plans to purchase five aged-care assets in Japan for 5.26 billion yen (S$65.8 million). This marked the group's first overseas investment for its aged-care business.

SPH on Monday said the acquisition of three of the Japan properties has been completed. The acquisition of the other two assets is expected to complete in April this year, subject to satisfaction of conditions precedent.

Shares of SPH fell S$0.16 or 8.8 per cent to finish at S$1.65 on Monday, before the announcements.