HOUSTON (Aug. 25, 2004) - The Slovak Republic office of Stewart Information International Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Stewart Information Services Corp. (NYSE-STC), has issued the first commercial title guaranty in the Slovak Republic. The title guaranty covers a portfolio of office buildings located in Bratislava and has a combined value of more than €90million ($120 million).
The acquisition represents the sixth major investment by HCEPP II, Heitman LLC's Central European Property Fund and its first investment in the Slovak Republic. The existing properties were acquired in a joint venture with the developer, B.S.R. Europe (TASE: BSR), a subsidiary of B.S.R. Engineering and Development, and Leader Holdings and Investment (TASE: LDER). The newly-developed property, which is still in lease-up, was 100 percent acquired by HCEPP II.
"Transactions of this size are occurring more and more frequently across Central and Eastern Europe especially after the accession into the European Union. Many international investors and lenders are building portfolios to take advantage of the attractive returns here and in other former Eastern Bloc countries," said Zdenek Valka, Slovak and Czech Republic country manager, Stewart International, s.r.o.
The higher returns, however, come with higher risks associated with the histories of these respective market regions, and land ownership and title related issues are still major challenges yet to be completely resolved, noted Valka. To resolve this tension, investors are turning to companies like Stewart to provide a solution. By working with local law firms and using its 111 years of experience in title search, remediation of title defects and strong underwriting principles, Stewart is able to significantly reduce title risk and provide financial indemnification for remaining title risks, allowing large projects to succeed.
"The title guaranty gives us a greater sense of security," says Dennis M. Dart, senior vice president, director Legal Affairs for Heitman. "In the past, we relied on the opinions of attorneys - and very good attorneys - but there are uncertainties and inherent risks of title in Central Europe." Dart explained that with a title guaranty, Stewart was able to assume the risk and provided Heitman's leadership team with peace of mind.
About Stewart International
Stewart International provides oversight and leadership for Stewart's expansion to markets outside of the United States. By consulting with governments on land laws, developing automated public land record systems, promoting primary and secondary mortgage markets, delivering solutions that speed and simplify the conveyance process, and providing market-driven title assurance, Stewart International enhances the real estate transaction process. To date, Stewart provides title guarantees and title insurance policies, escrow services, and real estate information services in more than 30 countries through its offices in Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Scotland, Slovak Republic, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Stewart has an 18-year history of providing real estate information solutions for various governments including the Slovak Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Hungary, Costa Rica, Washington, D.C., and other locations in the United States. For more information, visit stewart.com/international
Stewart Information Services Corp. is a technology driven, strategically competitive, real estate information and transaction management company. Stewart provides title insurance and related information services through more than 7,700 issuing locations in the United States and several international markets. Stewart meets the needs of the real estate and mortgage industries through the delivery of information services required for settlement using e-commerce. These services include title reports, flood determinations, document preparation, property reports and background checks. Stewart also supplies post-closing services to lenders, automated county clerk land records, property ownership mapping and GIS for governmental entities. Stewart provides expertise in tax-deferred exchanges. More information about Stewart can be found at http://www.stewart.com/.