Chinese investors go on property buying spree in Europe

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 2:41am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 2:41am

Mainland investments in the European property market tripled last year, with Britain and Germany as the top destinations, and the momentum is likely to continue this year.

Insurers, developers and wealthy individuals have joined China's sovereign wealth fund in seeking to diversify their assets outside Asia, research firm Real Capital Analytics (RCA) said yesterday.

Mainland investors bought commercial properties worth €3.05 billion (HK$32.2 billion) across Europe last year, compared with €978 million in 2012, according to RCA data.

The number of buildings acquired, including those that formed part of portfolio transactions, rose to 43 from 10.

Gingko Three, an investment arm of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, was the mainland's most active buyer, acquiring 16 properties for €1.82 billion, RCA said.

"It is hard to see cross-border capital flows from China into European commercial real estate slowing anytime soon," said RCA's director of market analysis Joseph Kelly.

This year has started on a high note. China Investment Corp, the country's US$575 billion sovereign wealth fund, this month agreed to buy Chiswick Park, a West London office development, from US private equity group Blackstone for about €917 million.

Separately, state-owned developer Greenland Group announced it was investing £1.2 billion (HK$15.3 billion) in two property projects in London.

CIC chairman and chief executive Ding Xuedong told a forum in Hong Kong on Monday that Europe had a lot of potential given its improving outlook. "In Europe, we favour making investments in infrastructure, small and medium-sized enterprises and properties," he said.

Ping An Insurance, the mainland's No 2 life insurer, made its first overseas property acquisition in July last year, buying London's iconic Lloyd's Building for €304 million.