Commercial property investment in key APAC markets staged a comeback in last year’s fourth quarter, led by resurgent Hong Kong, where transaction volume shot up 168 percent compared with year-earlier levels, according to Real Capital Analytics.
In its Asia Pacific Capital Trends report released Tuesday, the property information provider said a series of large deals across the region buoyed investment in the final months of COVID-stricken 2020. And while deal volume region-wide was still down year-on-year in the fourth quarter, RCA noted that 2019 itself ended with one of the strongest-ever quarters.
“After a truly bleak and uncertain start to 2020, the market has steadied and in the fourth quarter we saw a welcome rebound,” said David Green-Morgan, RCA’s managing director for Asia Pacific. “This bodes very well for activity in early 2021 as we saw a number of deals across the region roll over into the new year.”
Rollback From a Record Year
Asia Pacific sales across the major income-producing property types amounted to $141.2 billion in 2020, down 23 percent from 2019’s record level, RCA said. Fourth-quarter sales activity totalled $44.7 billion, just 10 percent lower than in the same period a year earlier.
Deal volume in Hong Kong for all of 2020 reached $8.6 billion, down 43 percent, with over a third of sales activity, nearly $3 billion, occurring in the fourth quarter.
The city’s biggest building sale of 2020 was completed in the final days of the year, as a consortium backed by Manulife, Gaw Capital and Schroder Pamfleet bought the 21-storey Cityplaza One office building in the eastern part of Hong Kong Island for $1.27 billion.
The Cityplaza deal came after a burst of smaller transactions earlier in the fourth quarter. These included developer Sun Hung Kai’s sale of the retail podium in its Downtown 38 residential complex in Ma Tau Kok for about $38 million and investor David Chan’s offloading of 4,000 square feet (372 square metres) at The Center in Central for around $16 million.
Asia Pacific’s Most Active Markets in 2020
|Hong Kong, SAR China||$2,978||168%||$8,602||-43%|
|Other Asia Pacific||$10||-98%||$1,283||-31%|
That activity followed on from the third-quarter close of the year’s biggest transaction, Sun Hung Kai’s $1.45 billion sale to mainland group Ping An Insurance of a portion of the commercial development site at West Kowloon High-Speed Station.
“Like 2019, Hong Kong’s journey can again be described as a tale of two halves,” said Benjamin Chow, analytics manager for APAC at RCA. “The first was largely a continuation of late 2019 — large deals disappeared, occupancies and rentals under pressure, no cross-border interest whatever. By midyear, pricing of commercial properties began to look more attractive, having fallen almost 20 percent from the peak a year before. Resultantly, deal activity began to creep back upwards, and overseas investors returned.”
India Propelled by Portfolio Sales
Elsewhere in Asia, India saw the highest growth in commercial transaction volume in the fourth quarter with a 352 percent year-on-year spike to $4.3 billion. The emerging market’s blowout figure was influenced by a pair of portfolio mega-deals that closed during the quarter.
First up was Brookfield Asset Management’s $2 billion acquisition of 16 office and co-working assets from Bengaluru-based RMZ Corp. The Indian developer sold 18 percent of its overall portfolio of 67 million square feet to the Canadian investment firm in the biggest deal in the country’s real estate market.
Next was private equity bigfoot Blackstone’s $1.5 billion purchase of commercial and retail properties from Bengaluru real estate player Prestige Estates. The sale of 21 million square feet of assets included five completed office assets, four under-construction offices, nine retail malls and two hotels.
In all, India saw a record level of commercial property investment in 2020 at $6.2 billion, up 46 percent.
Another APAC market enjoying growth and a record level of deal value was South Korea. Drawing on a deep reserve of domestic capital, the country saw transaction volume rise 12 percent year-on-year to $8 billion in the fourth quarter and climb 11 percent to an all-time best of $25.1 billion for all of 2020.
At the other end of the league table, Singapore had its second-worst year since RCA began maintaining records, with investment tumbling 73 percent to $3.3 billion. In Australia, volume fell by almost half from 2019 to $18 billion.
APAC’s two biggest commercial property markets, China and Japan, maintained their standing amid more moderate declines in transaction volume, with China’s falling 21 percent for the year to $3.3 billion and Japan’s dipping 15 percent to $3.8 billion. Both markets saw a decline of 14 percent year-on-year in 2020’s final quarter.