The investment team associated with RMK Timberland Group has shifted over to Brazilian investment bank BTG Pactual Group following a desire by its prior owner Regions Financial, to focus on “core banking activities,” sources say.

While attempts to gain confirmation from the Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions Bank, which has more than $120 billion in assets, were not successful, pension officials from the Arkansas Teachers Retirement System (ATRS) have noted the change in ownership.

BTG Pactual also did not immediately respond to IMMP's requests for comment.

Following its June 3 retirement Board of Trustees meeting, ATRS Executive George Hopkins confirmed that RMK Timberland Group had been sold off to BTG Pactual. The real estate team currently manages the nearly $12 billion retirement system’s timberland portfolio, which is valued at around $350 million.

Previously, IMMP reported in April 2012 that the full-service bank Regions Financial was planning to sell the timberland investment management business within the institutional management division.

During the period, Regions Financial disclosed it had completed its sale of Morgan Keegan & Company to Raymond James Financial. The group took the name of Regions Timberland Group (RTG) following the sale; it was formerly known as the “business unit partner of Regions Morgan Keegan Trust and Morgan Asset Management.

The Regions Timberland Group is listed as “a pioneer in timberland investing” because it started one of the first institutional investor timberland funds in 1981, its firm further stated on its website.

Hopkins confirmed in a prior phone conversation at the time that Regions was “going to get out of the non-core bank business, [but] that they don’t have a buyer.” He explained previously that he displayed his discontent to RMK Timberland Group.

“…To learn that an asset that was a pretty valuable thing [for the ATRS] is just a light and strike decision to sell it before” testing the market for potential buyers was very unacceptable.

In 2012, a spokesperson for Regions stated that the bank didn’t have any comment on RMK Timberland. 

Despite the change, Hopkins said Monday the ATRS is reportedly maintaining its timberland investment management contract with former RMK Timberland Group team that managed about $2.2 billion in the investment strategy.

“Our contract was assumed by another entity, [and there were] no management group changes; just the owner behind the company,” Hopkins said.  

In an executive summary reported to ATRS trustees yesterday, it was highlighted that BTGP Asset Management acquired a Brazilian timberland management company, The Timber Group (TTG), in December 2012.

“TTG was RTG’s [Regions Timberland Group] South American operating partner and in effect RTG sourced the BTG Pactual bid,” the Board summary stated. “The merger can be viewed as mutually complementary to all parties involved.”

It is likely that all employees, which include the entire management team, portfolio managers and the client services team, will make the transition.

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