Wang On Properties has agreed to sell an entire floor at the United Centre for a consideration of HK$515 million ($66.1 million) or HK$29,022 per square foot, following the uptick in Hong Kong’s office market in August, with rents in premium buildings up by 6 to 8 percent.
The disposal of the 30th floor of tower next to Three Pacific Place in Admiralty, which comes nearly five years after Wang On agreed to buy the 17,745 square foot (1,648.5 square metre) space from Thing On Group, brings the listed developer only a 0.5 percent markup from the consideration of HK$512.2 million it paid for the asset in 2016.
In announcing the disposal, the developer’s CEO Tang Ho Hong said he believed the sale would enable Wang On to reallocate its resources into future investment opportunities and pursue other avenues for growth.
The group’s recent disposal follows a rebound in strata title office transactions as the city emerges from a two-year slowdown triggered by 2019’s social unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic, with grateful investors notching 17 sales of full floors worth more than HK$100 million in the first seven months of 2021. That total already surpasses 2020’s full-year count of 15 such transactions, according to Midland IC&I research.
Pursuing New Opportunities
Wang On currently leases the asset to a tenant for a monthly rent of HK$1.1 million under a deal expiring on 31 March 2023. Rents in Admiralty fell 10.1 percent in the first eight months of the year, according to Midland IC&I.
Wang On’s neighbours in the 35-storey Grade A office tower include DBS Bank and co-working space The Desk.
In purchasing the office property in 2016, Wang On said the acquisition was expected to “strengthen (the group’s) property portfolio and/or income base”. At the time, Grade A rents in Central averaged $302 per square foot per year. This was about double the district’s average leasing tariff of $151.20 per square foot per year in the second quarter of 2021, which works out to $12.60 per (HK$98.10) square foot per month, according to Cushman & Wakefield.
In the months following Wang On’s 2016 purchase, rents for a unit in a high-level floor of the building were priced up to HK$56 per square foot per month. But this year, the highest per square foot price for an upper floor unit was HK$50, according to transaction records from Midland IC&I.
Following the sale in the eastern stretch of Hong Kong Island’s central business district, Wang On says its total assets will decrease by HK$178 million, while its total liabilities are also expected to contract by HK$203.6 million, according to the announcement.
Full-Floor Transactions Rebound
Since last year’s cancellation of the double stamp duty, a cooling measure used to increase taxes on non-residential properties, strata-title deals have seen a “healthy pick-up”, according to property services firm Colliers International.
Just this month, a full floor at Enterprise Plaza in Kowloon Bay, yielding an area of 16,100 square feet, was sold for HK$143 million to Wai Lun Liu, the chairman of property trader Team Eight Group Holdings. This equated to a price per square foot of only HK$8,900, which was lower than the market price by more than 10 percent, said HK01.
In July, an entire 24,980 square foot floor of the Center on Queen’s Road was sold by David Chan Ping-chi, also known as the King of Cassettes, to a local buyer for about HK$674 million, or HK$27,000 per square foot, HK01 reported.
A month earlier, the local news site reported that an information technology and services company, First Group Holdings, had sold its headquarters on the ninth floor of the Rykadan Capital Tower in Kwun Tong, though at a 13.5 percent loss, for HK$135 million.
Though Wang On Properties is selling off its Admiralty office property, the group is actively replenishing its land bank and has added 228,000 square feet (21,182 square metres) as of 31 March.
In August, the Hong Kong-listed developer purchased a site in Kowloon for a HK$1.3 billion project, with plans for a 230-unit residential development.
This purchase came just a week after Wang On sold all 143 units at its residential project in Tsing Yi, an island in the New Territories, with 13 buyers bidding for every available unit, reported the South China Morning Post.