Gaw Capital Partners has bought a Perth office building to develop into student accommodation.

The Hong Kong-based real estate private equity firm bought the eight-storey Telstra Building on Stirling Street in Perth through one of its funds.

It plans to convert the building into accommodation for more than 500 students.

Gaw Capital said no decision had yet been made on an operator.

UK-based GSA recently formed a joint venture with Perth developer Stirling Capital to develop a 571-bed facility near Gaw Capital’s project.

Kenny Gaw, managing principal and president of Gaw Capital Partners, told IPE Real Estate: “Education is already one of Australia’s biggest export earners, and there continues to be strong growth in the number of international students arriving in the country.

“Perth has not focused on this growth area during previous economic cycles, but our adviser, DevWest, recognised the significant opportunity.”

Gaw Capital entered the Australian market in September through a logistics joint venture with listed Australian company Abacus.

The venture has since bought warehouses in Sydney and Melbourne.

“We are optimistic about the student-housing sector in Australia and are looking out for new opportunities,” Gaw said.

The company notes that, by the end of 2020, Australia’s undersupply of student accommodation is projected to increase by 39% to more than 400,000 units as the rate of full-time higher-education student growth continues to outpace the development of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) bed spaces.

Gaw noted that Perth was undergoing rapid transformation, with the re-emergence of the Northbridge entertainment precinct and the evolution of the Perth City Link project, which will reconnect the central business district to Northbridge in the city’s north.

Gaw Capital has a modest exposure in student housing in Hong Kong with Campus HK, Hong Kong’s first shared accommodation created specifically for students.

Gaw told IPE Real Estate the 48-room student housing facility was created out of a 438-unit service apartment block.

“Campus HK has been doing extremely well from the beginning, running an annual occupancy [of more than 90%],” he said.