HNRG rebrands amid broader Manulife reorganization

Hancock Natural Resource Group has rebranded as Manulife Investment Management Timberland and Agriculture and is to be led by former Credit Suisse real estate exec Christoph Schumacher.

Hancock Natural Resource Group has rebranded to Manulife Investment Management Timberland and Agriculture as part of a broader reorganization at its Toronto-headquartered parent company, Manulife Investment Management.

Current global head of timberland investments Tom Sarno and current global head of agriculture investments Oliver Williams will report to Christoph Schumacher, who joined the firm in May to serve as chief executive of Manulife Investment Management Timberland and Agriculture and global head of real assets for Manulife Investment Management.

“Timberland and agriculture are cornerstones of our private markets capabilities and crucial to how we help clients meet their investment and sustainability objectives,” Manulife Investment Management global head of private markets Stephen Blewitt said in a mid-November statement. “We believe the investments we’ve made in these areas will help us expand the reach of these unique offerings in markets around the world.”

This year has seen expansion of the former HNRG’s timber and ag portfolios in Latin America. In January, it acquired a stake in Chilean fruit production, packaging and export company David Del Curto, in an investment marking its entry into Chile’s ag market.

The firm has since completed at least two timber acquisitions in Brazil. Sarno told Agri Investor in August that the firm’s regional expansion has included the addition of new staff and does not focus on any one country.

“We’re really putting together a South America strategy, rather than simply a Brazil strategy,” Sarno said.

The firm released a report on agricultural opportunities in Chile this year, which made it clear that the country remains a focus of its plans for the region.

In an overview of timber markets released in late October, the company now operating as Manulife Investment Management Timberland and Agriculture wrote that market and policy trends have led to a surge of investment in new solid wood product and pulp production capacity that should raise global timber demand.

“The major expansion in lumber, wood panel and mass timber capacity that is in the process of occurring in the US South could meaningfully tighten timber availability and support stronger prices for sawtimber,” analysts wrote. “The next round of pulp mill capacity raises the level of global competition and timberlands supplying these new pulp plants will enjoy secure market prospects, while pulpwood resources dependent on older, smaller, higher-cost mills will face challenges.”

The former HNRG’s rebranding comes as part of a reorganization that has seen Manulife bring all its private markets, stretching across private equity credit and real assets, under a single brand. As of the end of September, Manulife had $835 billion in assets under management.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Schumacher is based in Switzerland and joins Manulife after four years as global head of real estate at Credit Suisse. It shows that he previously served as head of international investments at German insurance company Generali Immobiliare and has been a member of the European board of the Urban Land Institute for a decade.

Manulife Investment Management Timberland and Agriculture manages a portfolio of about six million acres of timberland located in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil and Chile. Its 400,000-acre farmland portfolio includes properties in the US, Canada, Chile and Australia.