Forum Equity Partners Inc.
Forum Equity Partners Inc. has established itself as an innovative leader within the Canadian and North American markets since 2002. The company is a top tier alternative asset-class developer, investor and manager of Infrastructure, Renewable Energy and Real Estate projects. With its Toronto headquarters and offices in Vancouver and in the US, Forum has firmly established its roots as a lead developer, equity sponsor and asset manager across a diverse range of development investments and projects. Forum has dynamic growth plans reaching across new sectors, in high growth industries that are capturing significant market opportunities in wind and solar.
The Canadian Business Journal recently spoke with Founder and CEO Richard Abboud, Managing Partner, Rupesh Amin and Partner, Principal Investing, Bram Walters about the company’s innovative leadership in infrastructure, its exciting renewable energy portfolio, and Forum’s track record of delivering unique projects with a positive impact on communities.
Commitment to developing Canadian Infrastructure
The coming decade will see a significant boost in infrastructure developments, with $78 trillion expected to be spent globally. Faced with this growing demand for infrastructure investments, governments around the world are looking at new ways to finance projects, and Public-Private Partnerships (P3) have emerged as an attractive model.
Forum’s P3 leadership and experience spans across Canada, possessing one of the strongest track records in the industry, with an approximately 70 percent selection rate in competitive government procurements. The company’s P3 projects span infrastructure sectors that include higher education, correctional, justice, long term care, affordable housing, social housing, civil, water and wastewater, medical campus structures and civic oriented facilities. No matter the project scope, complexity or size, Forum’s approach is to provide an innovative and performance driven delivery model that provides its investors, partners and clients with extraordinary outcomes.
Driving the success behind this expansive list of projects is a team that has over 100 years of collective experience and expertise in infrastructure assets, project finance, private equity, real estate and public sector partnering. Forum recently delivered two projects that are first-of-its-kind to the P3 space – the high-profile Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport Pedestrian Tunnel and a social housing project located in downtown Vancouver, B.C.
The Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport Pedestrian Tunnel opened to the public on July 30, 2015. The under-lake tunnel provides passengers with convenient and reliable accessibility to Billy Bishop Airport, allowing 1,000 people every hour to travel from the Toronto mainland to the airport in six minutes walking time. In keeping with Forum’s focus on renewable energy priorities, the underground walkway is powered by 100 per cent green energy.
“The tunnel provides a real connection between the Billy Bishop airport and the city for everyone, including staff who work at Porter, business commuters and families. It’s made a significant impact to have that connectivity where people don’t have to rely on the timing of the ferry to get across. I think it reinforces Toronto’s identity as a world-class city,” Amin says.
The tunnel has won several awards for its innovation, including the International Tunneling & Underground Space Association’s 2014 Specialist Tunneling Project of the Year Award and the Tunneling Association of Canada’s 2014 Canadian Project of the Year Award.
The Vancouver, B.C. Single Room Occupancy Renewal Housing project won The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships National Award for Innovation & Excellence in 2014. The new housing development will provide affordable, safer and renewed living spaces for approximately 1,000 people. Forum assembled and led a top tier team to renovate the buildings, improving amenities and restoring the heritage value of the century-old buildings. The project involved designing, renovating, financing and maintaining 13 buildings and working with B.C. Housing and other non-profit social housing operators.
“The project will bring these buildings up to a new standard, which most of these tenants haven’t had before,” Amin explains. “Having a place where people can feel safe and a sense of humility, and somewhere they feel like they have a home is a pretty significant impact on the community. It’s part of our values. We are committed to significant achievements and meaningful contributions to the communities we are working in.”
Pursuing innovative investment opportunities in renewable energies
The expanding renewable energy sector is a prime area of investment focus for Forum. With over $300 million in investments committed to date, the company plays a lead role in Ontario’s development of residential, rooftop solar and in distributed wind and early stage transmission development across North America.
Forum’s latest announcement is the largest ever investment in distributed wind representing $200 million to United Wind Inc., located in Brooklyn, NY. United Wind leases small wind turbines to farmers and rural homes for little to no capital costs, providing expansion opportunities in distributed wind that were not possible before. United Wind is first to market its one-of-a-kind Windlease program and combined with its strong leadership and business model, offers a promising combination in an untapped market that could potentially become as large as $25 billion.
Forum’s recent financing of United Wind presents all the signs of an ideal investment. “United Wind is very interesting and exciting, because it’s a new space where there is a first mover advantage,” Walters explains. “No one else is active in the small wind leasing business.”
Forum has extensive expertise in residential rooftop solar energy and has witnessed explosive growth in that market. When the company learned that United Wind offered a similar business model, it jumped on the opportunity to invest.
“The lease structure allows the customer to install a turbine without actually buying one,” Walters says. “Then beyond that, it has very similar characteristics to residential rooftop solar in the U.S. with diverse counterparties, high credit scores and a diverse portfolio across multiple geographies, especially a large untapped market.”
“We see a market in the U.S. that is potentially as large as $25 billion. So putting these together with a very strong team at United Wind and a well developed business plan, you really start to see a tremendous opportunity for development,” Walters adds.
The United Wind investment has further galvanized Forum to expand into renewable energies. “As a result of United Wind, we’ve been very pleased with the positive response that we’ve got in the market,” he says. “It’s opened a lot of doors for us and we look forward to growing our exposure to the sector.”
“We’re long-term investors,” Walters continues. “We’re committed to the sector. We’re very excited for what the future holds and look forward to bringing our experience and our capital to help its development in the future.”
Keen eye for real estate opportunities
Forum has built a portfolio of approximately one million square feet of real estate through acquisition and development. By applying innovative thinking, it has created highly structured and customized debt and equity capital solutions that have optimized results for clients and partners.
Forum’s most recent project is an approximately 1000-bed student housing project on York University’s campus. The project is an excellent example of how Forum has successfully combined its P3 and real estate experience to deliver this important project.
Dedicated to community improvement and growth
Many of the Forum team members hold leadership positions on the boards and capital campaigns of major charities and public institutions. Focused on community engagement, Forum’s team is also highly committed to contributing, both to the city of Toronto and to international causes through its social events and projects. Recently, Forum adopted the village of Kipasan in Kenya through the Canadian charity Free The Children “Adopt a Village” program. The investment provides the community of 2,000 with clean water, medical supplies, a new school and alternative food and revenue sources and Forum reports that it expects school enrolment numbers to rise dramatically once the new school is built.
A New, State-of-the-Art Head Office located in Brookfield Place, Toronto
Forum recently moved into its newly, renovated office space, located in Brookfield Place in Toronto. The office is a testament to the company’s core beliefs and values. It showcases a custom designed mural, cathedral high ceilings with floor-to-ceiling windows over-looking Brookfield Place’s spectacular atrium, a custom designed team room, brightly coloured collaboration rooms and the latest designs in office furniture, equipment and technology.
“I wanted the new office to provide inspiration and enable engagement amongst our team, clients and partners – it helps remind all of us of our core values and what we strive to achieve everyday”, says Richard Abboud, Founder & CEO.
To constantly strive to deliver Extraordinary Outcomes™
Forum’s vision is to provide extraordinary experiences and outcomes to all of its stakeholders.
With current assets under management at over $1 billion, Forum is looking at continued growth in the renewable, real estate and infrastructure sectors. And while it plans to remain an owner and operator, it also intends to further co-invest with institutional investors. “As we continue to grow, we plan to do more co-investing and asset managing along with institutional partners,” says Abboud, Founder & CEO, adding that the company sees strong potential for growth in both Canada and the U.S.
“We’re fully committed to exceeding our project, client and partner expectations and we get jazzed about delivering extraordinary outcomes to all of our stakeholders, project partners, clients, employees, and investors,” he says. “Across the board, our team is committed to doing that.”
“We’ve been fortunate to have a very strong and capable team. There’s a strong commitment to unconventional thinking and relentlessly pursuing innovation,” Abboud continues. “In the end, we’re looking to make attractive investments, deliver outstanding projects and have a positive impact on our communities.”
For further enquiries about Forum Equity Partners, please contact: Lesley Broadhurst, VP, Marketing & Communications