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Desjardins invests in Optima-Axium seniors living JV

Desjardins Global Asset Manager takes interest in portion of Western Canada portfolio

Desjardins logo.Desjardins Global Asset Management (DGAM) is investing in a joint venture with Optima Living and Axium Infrastructure to take an interest in a portfolio of seniors living communities in Western Canada.

The companies made the announcement Wednesday morning. Financial terms have not been revealed.

In a follow-up interview with RENX, Optima Living co-founder and principal Karim Kassam said the Desjardins investment involves "a portion" of the Optima-Axium portfolio – but not all 25 of the seniors living facilities in their existing venture.

"We're thrilled with the investment of Desjardins in the Optima-Axium joint venture," Kassam told RENX. "The transaction represents a portion of our total joint venture, not the complete 25 assets." 

Desjardins Global Asset Management is the asset manager of the Desjardins Group, North America’s largest financial cooperative. The joint venture with Axium-Optima will increase Desjardins’ presence in Alberta and Western Canada.

New investor will expand growth opportunities

It also provides an additional investor with deep financial resources for potential growth, Kassam told RENX.

"With the markets being the way they are it's important for us to have long-term capital," Kassam said. "This allows us the opportunity to further solidify that asset class by having both Axium and Desjardins at the table with us.

"We're always looking at opportunities together and we're always in the marketplace."

Kassam said Optima remains focused on Western Canada: "We're Western Canadian-owned and -operated and that is the intention of our strategy."

He said the firm continues to be interested in a range of seniors living sectors, from private-pay living facilities to long-term care.

"We're very interested in both the independent living private-pay space, as well as the publicly funded long-term care space. Our partnership with Axium and now with Desjardins allows us to double down on the infrastructure space, which is qualified as publicly funded beds in Western Canada," Kassam explained.

"For us that's been a deliberate strategy since 2007, we've always had a vision to being right down the middle between private-pay and publicly funded."

Optima also has a partnership with U.S.-based Welltower in the independent living sector.

For DGAM, the investment achieves several aims.

“This transaction further expands our longstanding relationship with Axium, and we look forward to working with Optima Living, a leading owner, operator and manager of seniors’ living communities in Western Canada,” Frédéric Angers, DGAM's vice-president and chief investment officer, private markets, said in the announcement.

“Optima’s compassionate approach, combined with their track record in the seniors housing and long-term care sector, positions them as an ideal operating partner with whom we look forward to grow.”

Axium and Optima Living

Axium has partnered with Optima Living on a portion of its seniors portfolio since 2020. Axium and Desjardins are business partners in other investment sectors including infrastructure.

“Axium welcomes the addition of Desjardins to our joint venture, allowing us to continue to invest in our portfolio of long-term care facilities and grow our presence in the social sector which is in significant need of funding across Canada,” said Dominic Chalifoux, Axium’s chief asset management and valuation officer, in the announcement.

“Axium and Desjardins already have a longstanding relationship having partnered in the infrastructure space for the past decade. Desjardins is a highly respected player in the financial sector and will strengthen our position in the space.”

Optima Living owns and manages a portfolio of 40 assets comprising over 4,300 beds, including independent living, assisted living, supportive living, long-term care, brain health and memory care across Alberta and British Columbia. 

The Vancouver-based firm has over 3,300 employees and over 4,800 residents.

Axium Infrastructure is comprised of Axium Infrastructure Inc. and its affiliated entities. It is an independent portfolio management firm which invests in core infrastructure assets.

Axium Infrastructure had approximately $10.8 billion in assets under management as of June 30, 2023, as well as $1.8 billion in co-investments. 

It has offices in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, New York and London. 

About Desjardins and DGAM

Desjardins Group is the leading financial cooperative in North America and the fifth-largest in the world, with assets of $409.6 billion at June 30, 2023.

It offers a full range of products and services to individuals and businesses through its distribution network, online platforms and subsidiaries across Canada. 

DGAM was established in 1998 and is one of Canada’s largest asset managers with in-house expertise in public and private markets (infrastructure, real estate).

DGAM manages over $80 billion in institutional assets with offices in Montreal, Levis and Toronto. It has a team of over 80 investment professionals.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to note the Desjardins investment covers "a portion" of the pre-existing Axium-Optima Living joint venture. It does not include the full 25 properties in which Axium and Optima are jointly invested. RENX apologizes for the error.

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