Chinese parties in talks for stake in NYC's GM building: Sources

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - A group of Chinese investors including Ms Zhang Xin, the chief executive of commercial real estate developer Soho China Ltd, are in talks to buy a 40 per cent stake in the iconic General Motors (GM) building in Manhattan, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The deal would value the GM building at US$3.4 billion (S$4.24 billion), the sources said, making the 50-story office building on Fifth Avenue near Central Park the most valuable office building in the United States (US).

The sellers are a group of Middle Eastern investors that own 40 per cent of the building, said one of the sources.

The other 60 per cent is owned by landlord Boston Properties Inc, which paid US$2.8 billion to acquire the GM building from Macklowe Properties in 2008.

The sovereign wealth funds of Quatar and Kuwait invested in that deal through a Goldman Sachs Group Inc entity, as did a private-equity firm affiliated with the ruling family of Dubai.

Ms Zhang has shown more interest in US properties than other big Chinese investors, who have generally avoided direct purchases of US real estate even as other foreign buyers have been active. She is investing in the GM building with her own personal wealth, not Soho China's funds, one source said.

Ms Zhang's family acquired a 49 per cent stake in Park Avenue Plaza in 2011 for nearly US$600 million and was also part of a group that acquired Sony Corp's US headquarters in New York, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Ms Zhang also tried to provide US$800 million in financing for Vornado Realty Trust to build an office tower above the Port Authority bus terminal in Midtown Manhattan, but that was project was ultimately scrapped.

The GM building is seen as one of the marquis properties in Manhattan commercial real estate. Located at the south-east corner of Central Park, with Apple Inc's flagship store at its base, the building occupies a full city block and has nearly 186,000 sq m of rentable space.

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