He just bet 150 million on Cominar
This Syrian-born Armenian entrepreneur began buying Cominar shares shortly after the pandemic began. After buying ten million of them last week, he now owns more than 20 million, making him the largest holder of shares in the Quebec real estate trust, and the only one with a stake of more than 10%. At the current price, his total investment in Cominar, whose share took 9% on Monday, is already worth 170 million.
“It won’t change anything in my life. I do this for my two boys, Sam and George jr,” he said in an interview from his Montreal office.
The investment in Cominar is made through its holding company G2S2 Capital, whose acronym is taken from the first names of the four members of the family (George, George jr, Simé and Sam).
George Armoyan met his wife Simé at an event in Montreal in 1990. “Our boys were baptized in Quebec,” he says. Best known in English Canada, George Armoyan has lived in Toronto and Halifax over the years. He has also spent a lot of time in the United States, especially in the winter, where he is particularly active in real estate development in Atlanta, Charlotte and Florida. Now, he says he wants to become “a full-time Quebecer”.
In 2006, Globe and Mail columnist Eric Reguly called him “the best investor in Canada you’ve never heard of.”
In Cominar, the 60-year-old businessman sees a stock significantly undervalued relative to net asset value and a real estate portfolio with strong potential.
Five years from now, I’ll look like a visionary or a moron. – George Armoyan
“I love Montreal. I love Quebec. I saw an opportunity. I have believed in the long-term potential of Montreal for a long time. From a macro point of view, I like the outlook for Quebec,” adds this bargain hunter.
Against the current and militant
A counter-current investor, accustomed to not following the pack, George Armoyan also has a reputation as an activist. Although he says he does not want to act as an “activist” at Cominar, he wants to have a say in the management of the company. But he refuses to say he asked for a seat on the board of trustees.
“I’m expecting an invitation,” he said with a smile. I have been in the business for 38 years. I’ve done this all my life. I have spoken to the Chairman of the Board [René Tremblay] and others to express my interest and offer my assistance. I hope they see value in it. I hope to be useful. »
Cominar’s two largest unitholders are now investors with an activist past. American Zach George holds an 8% stake. George Armoyan says he knows Mr. George from having met him in the past, but maintains that he did not develop a strategy with him.
Zach George is a member of the committee responsible for overseeing the strategic review process launched by Cominar in mid-September. The company has lost about half of its value over the past year. However, the slide began long before the pandemic. A strategic review had also been set up two years ago, in order to “optimize” the real estate portfolio, reduce indebtedness and reduce costs.
One property at a time…
Cominar owns 315 office buildings, shopping centers and warehouses in the Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa regions.
George Armoyan believes that Cominar can do better and that its portfolio must now be analyzed one property at a time, in order to see “if different things can be done and find ways to redevelop certain buildings”. When asked to clarify his thoughts and offer examples, he prefers to remain silent.
Cominar’s management told La Presse that it will not comment on “discussions of a private nature with its unitholders”.
In the meantime, George Armoyan says he is doing his homework and continues to visit Cominar’s various shopping centers.
I recently visited Mail Champlain in Brossard, got my hair cut at Center Rockland, and this weekend, I walked around Center Laval. – George Armoyan
At the same time, he devotes energy to several residential and commercial projects in Quebec. His office on boulevard Newman, in LaSalle, is located near Carrefour Angrignon, where he participates in the development of the EQ8 urban city real estate project. He also launched the Station Garni project in Mascouche, near the train station, and says he is about to launch a residential project in Saint-Jovite.
A former engineering student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, George Armoyan does not want to reveal the value of his personal portfolio. “Let’s just say I’m blessed,” he said humbly. Armco Capital and Geosam Capital are two companies through which he carries out his real estate projects. He is also the big boss of the Clarke holding company and sits on the board of directors of major companies like TerraVest Industries and Bonavista Energy.