Sony closes US headquarters sale, biggest in two years: Sources

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Japan's Sony Corp on Friday completed the sale of its United States headquarters for US$1.1 billion (S$1.4 billion) to a group led by real estate developer the Chetrit Group, three sources familiar with the deal said.

SL Green Realty Corp initially provided the full US$925 million in loan financing for the deal for up to three years, depending on how long Sony remains a tenant in the building, one source said.

However, Bank of China Ltd stepped up and agreed to take US$600 million of the total debt financing in the form of a senior loan, the sources said.

Of the remaining US$325 million in debt financing, a US$175 million junior tranche was sold by SL Green to a Performing Debt Fund managed by Apollo Global Management LLC, one of the sources said. That amount can be increased to US$250 million, the three sources added.

SL Green took the two most junior tranches and might eventually sell one to the performing debt fund or someone else, a source said.

A representative from Apollo declined to comment. A representative from SL Green could not be reached for comment.

Sony is shedding non-core assets as it seeks to regain ground against rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and bounce back from four consecutive years of net losses.

The Sony building, located in Manhattan's pricey "Plaza District," is about 820,000 square feet, making the cost roughly US$1,341 per square foot. Some of that footage includes retail space that commands higher rents.

The price was the highest paid for a single US office building since Google Inc bought 111 Eighth Ave in Manhattan's Chelsea neighbourhood for US$1.8 billion, or roughly US$620 per square foot, at the end of 2010.

As part of the sale agreement, Sony will lease back the building for three years, giving the Chetrit Group time to decide whether to convert part of the building on Madison Avenue between 55th and 56th streets to residential units or a hotel, or keep it as an office and retail property.

The tower was constructed in the early 1980s by AT&T Inc, which was the largest US corporation before the US Department of Justice pressured it to break up into smaller companies.

Sony bought the building in 1992 for US$236 million.

A team of brokers lead by Doug Harmon of Eastdil Secured LLC brokered both the Sony and Google sales.

Sony Corp sold one of its most prized Tokyo office buildings last month to Japanese real estate trust Nippon Building Fund Inc and one other investor for 111 billion yen (S$1.4 billion).

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