Cominar changes chief executive as REIT repositions it operations

MONTREAL _ Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust is replacing its chief executive as Quebec’s largest commercial property owner repositions its operations to focus on its key markets in Quebec and the Ottawa region.

Sylvain Cossette, president and chief operating officer since joining the firm in 2013, will take over on Jan. 1 from Michel Dallaire, who has held the position since 2005.

Cossette said Cominar’s (TSX:CUF.UN) plan to reduce its debt, improve its occupancy rate and focus its activities on the Quebec market are key to driving the fund’s organic growth and financial health.

The trust announced in August plans to unload about 100 properties following a ratings downgrade. It expects to allocate more than $1.2 billion in expected proceeds primarily to reduce its debt. The remaining $325 million will be used to repurchase units and for acquisitions in core markets.

Alban D’Amours, the lead independent trustee, thanked Dallaire for his contribution, calling him “a true builder and visionary who propelled Cominar to become one of Quebec’s most respected real estate businesses.”

Dallaire said his family remains one of Cominar’s largest unitholders and is committed to the Quebec City-based business’ success.

Dallaire will remain chairman and executive vice-president operations (office and industrial) and asset management.

Michael Markidis of Desjardins Capital Markets said the changes should not have an impact on the strategic direction of the REIT. However, he said separating the roles of chairman and CEO, along with the removal of a Dallaire family member from the board, may be perceived as an improvement.

Cominar is Canada’s third-largest diversified real estate investment trust, with 523 office, retail, industrial and mixed-use properties across Quebec, Ontario, the Atlantic Provinces and Western Canada.

It will release third-quarter results on Nov. 10.