Heitman has acquired an industrial building in Hong Kong’s Fanling area from a grandson of New World founder Cheng Yu-tung for a reported HK$450 million ($57.33 million), with the US fund manager planning to transform the asset into a refrigerated storage facility.
The Chicago-based fund manager announced on Wednesday that it has purchased the New China Laundry building in Fanling, in the eastern New Territories, and will convert the 101,463 square foot (9,426 square metre) property into a cold chain facility within the next 12 months.
“We are pleased to add to our existing industrial and commercial portfolio in Hong Kong by acquiring this strategically located asset from a rare corporate divestiture and look forward to executing our business plan of transforming the property into a best-in-class cold chain logistics center,” Heitman head of acquisitions for Asia Pacific Brad Fu said in the statement.
While Heitman declined to comment on the price paid for the asset or the beneficial owner of the vendor, Hong Kong’s company registry shows that the seller is controlled by William Junior Guilherme Doo, son of New World non-executive vice chairman William Doo, with local media reports putting the sale consideration at HK$450 million.
Fu said that with the laundry business, which primarily services hotels and airlines, having been hit hard by the pandemic Heitman was able to secure the 1990-vintage asset at a discounted price, with the purchase having already been completed.
The reported price tag for the six-storey building translates to around HK$4,435 per square foot of built area, with the building occupying a 22,163 square foot site.
Without specifying current tenants, Fu said the building at 6 Yip Cheong Street is now fully leased, and after its conversion will be used as a last-mile distribution hub primarily for storing wine as well as frozen and chilled food products.
“We expect demand for specialized en-bloc facilities to continue to grow on the back of close to full occupancy of cold-storage space currently across Hong Kong,” Fu said.
Heitman picked up the industrial property on behalf of its $750 million Heitman Global Real Estate Partners II which reached a final closing in July 2021. The fund manager has said that with this fresh cash it will invest around $1.5 billion in mispriced, maturing and defensive assets around the world.
“The Hong Kong logistics asset provides geographic and sector diversification while aligning with the smart diversification theme of our proprietary global portfolio construction process. Further, the acquisition is aligned with our global selection of well-positioned assets for re-use in order to benefit from changing consumer demands,” said Gordon Black, senior managing director and portfolio manager at Heitman.
New Fund on the Block
Heitman’s acquisition of 6 Yip Cheong Street is the latest in a series of Fanling deals by international investors over the last 16 months, and the third on the same block.
In September, Blackstone purchased Yip’s Chemical Building at 13 Yip Cheong Street for HK$283 million, with JP Morgan Asset Management following up one month later with its HK$231 million purchase of the Chung Tai Printing Group building at 11 Yip Cheong street – just a few doors down from Heitman’s latest prize.
Including SilkRoad Property Partners’ HK$321 million purchase of the Smile Centre in Fanling in January of last year, international funds have now spent nearly HK$1.3 billion acquiring logistics assets in Fanling, according to data from Savills. Also during 2021, China Resources Logistics acquired the Mineron Centre in Fanling for HK$695 million.
In a briefing, Savills noted that en bloc industrial transactions hit a five-year high of HK$19.4 billion in Hong Kong last year, with Fanling accounting for more than a quarter of the buildings traded in the sector since the beginning of 2021.
“Demand for en-bloc assets remains high among local investors and private equity real estate funds. These two major players continue to seek suitable opportunities either for long-leasehold or conversion to new economy usage,” said Eric Chong, director of capital markets research at Savills Hong Kong.
Of the HK$30 billion in Hong Kong real estate investments by international funds since the beginning of last year, some 70 percent went to industrial assets, according to the consultancy’s figures.
Chengs on the Move
Local news accounts indicated that the seller of the Fanling asset, Success Ocean Ltd, had owned the property since 1999.
Now 48, Willam Doo Jr, who serves as a director of several businesses including New World’s NWS Holdings infrastructure division, The Bank of East Asia and property management firm FSE Lifestyle Services, has sold the New Territories property just a half year after his father’s purchase of a commercial project in London in November 2021.
The 77-year-old real estate tycoon bought the former House of Fraser department store at 68 King William Street in the City of London for around $175 million, making the 11-storey commercial block his first directly owned property in the city.
The Cheng family is one of the richest clans in Hong Kong with the fortune of Henry Cheng – New World’s chairman and the son of Cheng Yu-tung – combined with his family’s wealth ranking the Chengs third on Forbes’ 2021 rich list for the city.