Alberta property developer Walton International Group granted bankruptcy protection

One of the largest property developers in Alberta is in creditor protection after losing $67.3 million in the past three years following the oil downturn and troubles south of the border.

Walton International Group Inc. and numerous related companies were granted protection from creditors last week by a Calgary judge, according to documents filed by court-appointed monitor Ernst & Young. This gives Walton time to restructure and resolve its debt problems. 

The Calgary-based developer administers about 43,000 hectares of land in North America, including 15 land development projects in Alberta and Ontario, and six in the U.S., according to an affidavit by chief executive William K. Doherty.

The company's website lists three current Calgary developments — SkyView Ranch, Cornerstone and Point Trotter — and nine Edmonton developments.

Oil price drop, 2008 recession blamed

"Over the last 35 years, the business has grown from a single entity originally operating as a Canadian land banking company into a multinational privately owned real estate investment and development group concentrating on the identification, acquisition, administration, planning and development of strategically located land in major North American growth corridors," the affidavit states.

According to the documents, the company has been hurt by a number of factors, including the 2008-09 recession in North America and a "substantial and sustained drop in energy prices." 

"This current recession is having a direct impact on the Alberta real estate market, reflected in a precipitous drop in new home permits and new home starts, which have been far below historical averages as a result of slowed population growth, reduced net in-migration, high unemployment, and contracting GDP in Alberta," the documents state.

Significant cost-cutting measures 

The factors have led to reduced demand for many of the Walton Group's real estate developments located in Alberta.

The company, struggling with high debt loads and a lack of cash flow, has undertaken significant cost-cutting measures, the documents state, including reducing staff from 469 North American employees at the end of 2013 to 96 employees as of April 21.

The court order gives time for Walton International to restructure under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.  

Walton International Group is made up of hundreds of entities incorporated or established in Canada, the U.S. and Germany. Entities in the U.S., Europe and Asia are not part of the current legal proceedings.

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