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COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

Burnham USA Weighing Sale of $130 Million in Properties

December 19, 2000|BOB HOWARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Newport Beach-based Burnham USA Equities is considering the sale of about $130 million worth of shopping centers and office buildings, prompted by an offer from an undisclosed buyer.

The properties are primarily in Orange County, said Scott Burnham, chairman and president of the privately held real estate investment firm, who said the properties in question do not include the company's substantial holdings in the Newport Beach area.

Burnham USA, an 11-year-old firm that has spent about $175 million on new acquisitions in the last three years, may sell the properties as a single portfolio to one buyer, or it may sell them individually to multiple buyers.

The company will continue to look for acquisitions in Southern California and would use proceeds of any sales to buy additional properties here, said Burnham, who added that the firm had no plans to sell any of its holdings until it received the unsolicited offer.

"We really believe in the market," Burnham said. "We are aggressively pursuing new deals, and we believe the market in Southern California will be strong regardless of what happens nationally."

All of Burnham USA's holdings are in Southern California except for a shopping center in Sacramento, said Peter F. Bowie, a partner in the company. The holdings consist almost entirely of office and retail buildings.

The company believes there are still opportunities to find buildings that fit its strategy of buying at a discount and then adding value to its assets through either improved management or renovations, or by adding square footage, Burnham said.

In some cases the company obtains a discounted price because a seller needs to close quickly, Bowie said. In other cases, he said, a property may be suffering from deferred maintenance or high vacancy rates that enable a savvy buyer to acquire the property and build its value by renovating it or filling the empty space with new tenants.

"As the market has tightened, we have to look at more deals to find the good ones, but they are still out there," Burnham said, despite rising prices generated by the real estate boom in Southern California.

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