London landlords selling off properties amid Asian demand

LONDON • London landlords are offloading some of their most valuable properties as demand from investors in the Asia-Pacific region continues despite Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

Spurred by the record sale of the Cheesegrater tower, stakes in office buildings, including the skyscraper known as the Walkie Talkie and 20 Canada Square in the Canary Wharf financial district, are being offered for sale.

Other investors, including Blackstone Group and the real estate unit of Axa, are seeking to sell investments that have risen in value as investors continue to seek higher-yielding alternatives to stocks and bonds.

Investment in central London offices slumped to a five-year low last year, as few owners were willing to offer buildings for sale amid concerns the Brexit vote might dent values.

In the past month, properties valued at more than £2 billion (S$3.5 billion) have been offered to investors. Blackstone plans to sell its St Katharine Docks complex adjacent to the Tower of London for about £450 million, Axa is offering ICBC Standard Bank's London headquarters, and Brookfield Property Partners is offering an office building in Canary Wharf for £420 million.

There is a strong chance the buyers of those properties will be Asian. Chinese and Hong Kong investors spent £2.9 billion - more than buyers from any other region - on central London offices last year, broker Knight Frank said in a Feb 1 report.

They are benefiting from a weaker pound, which has lost almost 16 per cent against the Hong Kong dollar since the referendum.

"There is a good group of Asia-Pacific investors continuing to look for quality, well-leased buildings," Mr James Beckham - who, as head of central London investment at broker Cushman & Wakefield, advised on the sale of the Cheesegrater, said in an e-mail. "Yields in London are providing strong resilience against some of the negative headlines surrounding Brexit."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'London landlords selling off properties amid Asian demand'. Print Edition | Subscribe