PG&E to Sell San Francisco Headquarters for $800 Million

PG&E Corp. has reached a deal to sell its iconic San Francisco headquarters to real estate joint-venture Hines Atlas for $800 million as the utility giant moves to cut costs after it emerged from bankruptcy last year.

PG&E, which plans to move to Oakland next year, needs approval from state regulators to sell the 1.7 million-square-foot (158,000-square-meter) complex, which includes 77 Beale Street and 245 Market Street, according to a statement Monday.

The sale comes as office markets around the globe have been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. One broker estimated in 2019 that PG&E’s headquarters could bring in more than $1 billion. The utility giant is one of the most high-profile companies to leave San Francisco for Oakland, a less expensive city located across San Francisco Bay.

Nearly a dozen bids were submitted for the property, according to a person familiar with the matter. That level of interest suggests real estate investors are willing to bet on a rebound for office demand in the city.

“It’s a fantastic bet on San Francisco,” said J.D. Lumpkin, executive managing director at commercial real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield in San Francisco, who wasn’t involved in the deal. “While San Francisco has taken its lumps through Covid, perhaps more than other cities, there’s a lot of evidence that we will rebound over the next two or three years.”

PG&E didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the bids. The company’s shares rose as much as 2.1% Monday.

Unlike some other large property sales in San Francisco since the pandemic, the complex will require a substantial amount of renovation. It also doesn’t have a tenant in place, so the buyers will have to fill it in a few years once the redevelopment is finished.

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San Francisco’s overall office vacancy rate in the first quarter shattered the previous record high hit during the dot-com bust at the turn of the century, according to CBRE Group Inc. That’s pushed rent down and weighed on the value of buildings.

The sale price is about $200 million less than expected, Citigroup Inc. utility analyst Ryan Levine wrote in a research note Monday. That raises the prospect that PG&E may need to raise equity this year, he said.

Offset Bills

PG&E intends to distribute about $400 million from its gain on the sale to customers over five years to offset bill increases as it invests in safety and operational improvements. In an added benefit, most PG&E workers will have shorter commutes to their new office, the company said.

CBRE’s San Francisco Capital Markets team brokered the deal.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in early 2019 after collapsing under liabilities from wildfires sparked by its equipment. Though the company exited Chapter 11 last year, it remains burdened by about $42 billion of debt, raising concerns about its financial durability and ability to make the investments required to fire-proof its grid.

Hines is one of the biggest private real estate investors and managers in the world, according to its website. Hines Atlas is a joint venture between Hines and another investor, a Hines spokesman said. He declined to name the other investor.

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