TORONTO Feb 9 Major Canadian insurance firms
are investing C$290 million ($221 million) in a Toronto-based
research complex, repaying the bulk of its loans from the
Ontario government nearly three years ahead of schedule.
Manulife Financial Corp, Sun Life Financial Inc
and iA Financial Group led the financing deal by
investing in 19-year bonds issued by Phase II Investment Trust,
the innovation hub said on Thursday.
The MaRS Discovery District, which focuses on areas
including health sciences and technology, has become a
successful startup incubator and a part of Ontario's efforts to
drive innovation and attract entrepreneurs. But, for years, the
Liberal government was criticized by the province's Conservative
party for the "bailout" loans it provided MaRS.
MaRS began construction on a 20-story building in 2007 to
significantly expand the innovation hub, but the project stalled
when the financial crisis hit and the center struggled for years
to find enough tenants to fill the space.
The tower was left in limbo until 2011 when the province of
Ontario provided the non-profit with a C$224 million loan to
help finish construction. It was the first of multiple
government loans totalling some C$395 million.
The building is now fully leased and will soon generate
enough money to be self-sustaining, MaRS' Chief Executive Ilse
Treurnicht said in a statement.
More than 140 research labs and companies occupy the 1.5
million square-feet (139,000 square-meter) MaRS complex, which
provides support for startups and research in areas including
finance, health, and cleantech. Tenants include Facebook,
IBM and Royal Bank of Canada, and ventures
within the hub's network employ over 5,200 people, MaRS said.
($1 = 1.3109 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Solarina Ho)