Interior of a modern futuristic building
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Toronto-based Slate Asset Management has launched a $500-million real estate fund to provide liquidity to firms affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Slate will provide equity to stabilize companies’ balance sheets, the firm said in a release on Tuesday, and will use bridge financing to assist borrowers on new acquisitions and refinancings.

“Slate has identified an immediate opportunity to provide transitional capital to the Canadian real estate market through a blend of credit and structured equity,” founding partner Blair Welch said in a statement.

The pandemic has hit the commercial real estate sector, with some retailers and other companies seeking rent deferrals. While some REITs collected almost all their rent owed for April and May, others have only collected about two-thirds.

Slate, which manages $6.5 billion in assets, runs private equity vehicles as well as two REITs traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange: the Slate Retail REIT and the Slate Office REIT.

A report this week from Richardson GMP warned of an “ominous outlook” for the physical space needed for offices and retail outlets as workers and consumers adjust their behaviour during the pandemic.

For many, “social distancing is going to cause operating profits to fall, especially if buildings or insurers require personal protective equipment, sanitizing stations, and protocol to be followed in order to operate,” the report said.

The S&P/TSX REIT Index is down more than 25% year to date, the report noted.

New managing director

Slate also said Tuesday that it has appointed Doug Podd as the new managing director in the Toronto office to help with the new $500-million fund. Podd previously worked in Brookfield Financial’s debt advisory business.