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Canada's Sandpiper Group asks to overhaul First Capital REIT board

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian private equity firm Sandpiper Group on Monday announced it had launched a campaign to overhaul the board at First Capital Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), nominating four new members after "long record of underperformance."

Sandpiper, which owns 9% of the outstanding units of First Capital REIT, said it was requisitioning a special meeting of unitholders no later than March 1.

Sandpiper, which has been investing in First Capital REIT prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, said the company's management and board have continued to pursue a flawed disposition strategy and been "combative" towards unitholders.

"The incumbent Board and management have lost unitholder value and today, they are pursuing strategies that will dismantle FCR's irreplaceable portfolio – a portfolio that had been strategically curated over the past two decades," Samir Manji, chief executive and founder of Sandpiper Group, said in the statement.

Sandpiper's portfolio includes other REITS, such as a 16.1% stake in Artis REIT and 11.6% investment in Dream Office REIT, according to data from Refinitiv.

"We cannot allow these actions to continue any further," Manji added.

First Capital was not available for an immediate comment.

First Capital REIT shares rose 1.4% in early trade, while the benchmark Canadian share index was flat.

The private equity firm also said compensation of some executive officers had increased by 34% over the last five years while the unit price had fallen by 19% over the same period.

Sandpiper said its CEO and founder should be appointed to the board as well as Kerry Adams, founder and president of wealth consulting business K. Adams & Associates Ltd, and lawyers Elizabeth DelBianco and Jacqueline Moss.

Since the pandemic, REITS have been hit by surging interest rates and widespread redemptions and investors have told Reuters they expect further declines in the market and the property sector.

Blackstone Inc CEO Stephen Schwarzman last week said his firm's $69 billion non-traded REIT had faced a wave of redemptions due to financial distress among its investors.

(Reporting by Maiya Keidan; Editing by Marguerita Choy)