US, Europe property reels in Asia investors

Property investors in Asia are looking to the United States and Europe, though Japan and Australia (above) remain popular.
Property investors in Asia are looking to the United States and Europe, though Japan and Australia (above) remain popular.PHOTO: REUTERS

Property investors in Asia are increasingly ploughing capital into the United States and Europe, though Japan and Australia remain popular, said a report out on Tuesday.

It also noted that Singapore's appeal is waning because of the soft market here and scarcity of assets.

Capital flows out of Asia should continue over the next five years as sovereign wealth and pension funds, insurance firms and private investors, especially Chinese developers, are flush with cash, it said.

It was compiled by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers using surveys and interviews with developers, investors and other stakeholders.

It cited figures from property consultancy JLL, which said Asian capital flows to US real estate rose 36 per cent year-on-year for the first three quarters. Meanwhile, Asian flows to Europe fell 6 per cent.

The expected rate increase in the US, economic weakness in Europe and the fact that the low-hanging fruit has largely been taken have prompted the shift, the report said.

From January last year to June this year, about US$12 billion (S$17 billion) in capital from Singapore - mostly from investment funds based here that pull in funds from elsewhere - was ploughed into US real estate, while nearly US$6 billion went into European assets.

Singapore-based investors are picking secondary cities with less competition and better yields over key gateway cities, said ULI consultant Colin Galloway.

In the Asia-Pacific, investors saw Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne and Osaka as the cities with the top investment prospects. Singapore fell two places to 11 out of 22.

Still, in Tokyo, prime office yields have dropped below 3 per cent and further falls are likely next year, said Mr Galloway. Stagnant for some time, rents need to rise for further price increases to make sense.

Even though real estate here has become less attractive, after topping the table in 2011-12, it is still holding up as Singapore is seen as a gateway with fairly liquid assets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2015, with the headline 'US, Europe property reels in Asia investors'. Print Edition | Subscribe