HK investments in S'pore properties hit $1.9b in first half

Hong Kong investors pumped US$1.4 billion (S$1.94 billion) into Singapore commercial real estate in the first half of the year.

This accounted for more than a quarter of the US$5.2 billion in total outbound property investment from Hong Kong in that period, making Singapore the top destination.

"Some of these Hong Kong investors and funds have been active in Singapore for some time, but the political situation (there) has coincided with more high-net-worth individuals and family offices inquiring on potential purchases," said Ms Christine Li, head of research for Singapore and South-east Asia at Cushman & Wakefield, which compiled the data.

Key transactions here included Hong Kong private equity firm Gaw Capital Partners' $710 million purchase of the Robinson 77 office building in February.

It also led a consortium, which included insurer Allianz, to buy the Duo office and retail space for $1.58 billion. This month, fund manager Arch Capital Management completed the purchase of Anson House for $210 million.

There is also increasing interest in Singapore retail properties among Hong Kong investors, with the recent $520 million acquisition of Chinatown Point mall by Pan Asia Realty Advisors, a joint venture between Mitsubishi Estate and Hong Kong-based CLSA Capital.

Mr James Shepherd, Cushman & Wakefield's regional research head, said: "Singapore may increasingly be viewed as a comparatively safe haven given the challenges that some other global destinations are facing."

The second most popular destination for Hong Kong investors was the United States, with almost US$1.2 billion deployed in the first half of the year. Britain was next on US$900 million and Japan on US$850 million.

Hong Kong private equity firm Gaw Capital Partners bought Robinson 77 for $710 million in February. More than a quarter of Hong Kong's US$5.2 billion in overseas property investments in the first half went to Singapore.
Hong Kong private equity firm Gaw Capital Partners bought Robinson 77 for $710 million in February. More than a quarter of Hong Kong's US$5.2 billion in overseas property investments in the first half went to Singapore. PHOTO: ROBINSON 77

Mainland Chinese buyers have also started putting Singapore on their radar for commercial assets.

The Place Holdings bought Realty Centre for $148 million in April. Singapore-listed The Place Holdings deals in branding, events management and tourism-related business development, and is backed by China's The Place Investment Group.

Chinese investors are likely to show interest in Australia, as well as countries linked to the Belt and Road Initiative.

Their traditional bias for the US and the United Kingdom has softened as trade tensions and Brexit uncertainty have persisted, noted Mr Shepherd.

Overseas assets are now less attractive because of the recent yuan depreciation, although investors may be encouraged to hold money offshore if they expect a further decline in the yuan rate, Cushman & Wakefield said.

Mr Shepherd added: "Despite the prevailing difficult outbound investment environment, platform deals are likely to remain attractive to Chinese investors - as will development, senior care, R&D (research and development) and logistics properties."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2019, with the headline 'HK investments in S'pore properties hit $1.9b in first half'. Print Edition | Subscribe