Rubber-stamped last week, China Life’s purchase of a 70% stake in 10 Upper Bank Street in London’s Canary Wharf was the latest in a series of large, single-asset transactions involving Asian capital.
Chinese outbound property investments beyond Asia reached a record US$9bn last year, while Asian investors last year spent more than £4bn on properties in the City of London.
Chinese insurer Ping An paid £260m for the Lloyds’ building. The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) spent £1.7bn on a 50% stake in the Broadgate Estate, while Samsung Asset Management paid £335m for 30 Gresham Street.
In a report by Colliers International earlier this year, the agent predicted a move beyond their typical scope of interest to the fringes of gateway cities and noted a 60% preference among Asian investors for offices.
Writing in IP Real Estate in April this year, CBRE real estate finance director Mark Evans noted a focus on London, but identified a shift to UK regions, German cities and Paris.
But for all the talk of Asian money moving beyond the UK capital, China Life’s deal is a reminder of both the attraction of London real estate and the preference of new Asian money for big ticket deals. Earlier this year, China Life spent $304m on a Chicago office tower.
China Life’s stake in 10 Upper Bank Street equates to around £636m. Opportunities to invest such a sizeable amount in a single 1m sqft asset do not come often. The property is one of only five buildings of over 1m sqft in London.
More importantly for the state-owned institutional investor, the purchase gives it access to a considerable rent roll. Annual rent on the building is £44.35m, according to The Canary Wharf Group, which sold the building. The main lease on the building is not due to expire until 2028.
China Life was joined in the acquisition by Qatar Holdings, which took a 20% stake in the partnership behind the purchase. A 10% stake has been kept by Canary Wharf Group’s parent company, Songbird Estates, which is 28% owned by Qatar Holdings.
Asian pension funds regard the US and UK as their top destinations for overseas real estate investments, according to a survey released in April by Asia Pacific Real Estate Association (APREA).
The US and UK were followed in preference by Europe, Australia and Asia. Two-thirds of those surveyed expect international real estate to become an “increasingly important” asset class for their portfolios.