Executive Chairman of both companies, Patrick Keenan, gathered over three decades of experience in law, investment banking and broking in Australia with Freehill, Hollingdale and Page (now Herbert Smith Freehills) and in London with Dominguez Barry Samuel Montagu and Prebon Yamane Group, before heading back to Australia in 2005 to be involved in property developments.
In 2016, he partnered with Dan Gallen and Charles Mellick to form Pallas Group, which includes Fortis. “I brought two things to the businesses,” he says. “One was experience in structuring and closing transactions, particularly unusual transactions, and the other was strategic input into how we could take our skill set and turn that into a growing business.”
If Fortis had an early challenge, it was the constraint of having to use its own capital. But it was a case of the right place at the right time, and with the help of long-time colleague Mark Spring, the group quickly established networks of investors.
What they’ve learned over the past five years, Patrick says, is that if it was a good enough deal, they could always find the money needed to fund a transaction. So the business has grown quickly. Their limitation now, he adds, is finding enough time to run down opportunities and ideas for developing the business.
“…we were the first to launch a bond like that with an initial A$30 million. In late March, the total investment was increased to A$55 million.”
Pallas Capital has rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic after a brief hiatus in early 2020. The company originated A$200 million of transactions during 2019, but garnered the same figure in just the last three months of 2020, so it has in effect quadrupled its rate of generating funds. “We’re back on track, if not more so,” Patrick declares.
“In December last year, we issued a bond in a warehouse structure that makes first mortgage loans. We understand that we were the first to launch a bond like that with an initial A$30 million. In late March, the total investment was increased to A$55 million. We’ve been approached now by a number of brokers, who have a strong investor interest in the bond. It looks as though it will be a substantially higher pool of funds within the next few months.”
As well as several projects underway in Melbourne, Fortis has five residential and commercial projects under construction in Sydney’s upmarket Double Bay and Edgecliff, which is undergoing a revitalisation, due in no small part to Fortis’ vision for the area.
When completed, one of those, Pallas House, will boast the latest culinary venture by celebrated restaurateur Neil Perry, who looked at the restaurant plans, and “got quite excited about it”, Patrick says.