UPDATE 2-Spear Street to buy BlackBerry's Canadian real estate assets

Mon May 5, 2014 6:08pm EDT
 
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(Adds comments from Spear Street, background, share price move)

By Euan Rocha

TORONTO May 5 (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd disclosed on Monday that U.S. real estate investment company Spear Street Capital is buying the majority of the embattled technology firm's Canadian real estate holdings for C$305 million ($278 million).

Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry announced in March it had reached an agreement to sell the vast majority of its real estate holdings, as part of a plan outlined earlier this year to strengthen its balance sheet. At the time, BlackBerry did not name the buyer or disclose the terms of the deal.

Spear Street is a boutique real estate investment firm that began operations in 2001. It often focuses on real estate being used by tech firms and its investments have included corporate campuses, single assets, portfolios, as well as partial and full development projects.

Spear Street President John Grassi said the start-up boom around BlackBerry's hometown of Waterloo was a factor in the investment, but other factors were also at play.

"A lot of larger tech companies are looking for talent, and they're going where the talent is," he said. "Not everyone is going to pick up and move to Silicon Valley because it is tough to do and expensive, so a lot of the larger companies are going to where the talent is and that is engineering and university centers, and Waterloo certainly stacks up well in that regard."

Although BlackBerry has shed more than half its workforce in the last few years, largely in and around Waterloo, the region's fortunes have not faded as it has turned into a start-up hub. It is also home to the University of Waterloo, which runs a highly regarded engineering program.

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