China’s Anbang Insurance, which made its name by purchasing New York’s best-known hotel, is now said to be acquiring one of Vancouver’s most famous landmarks in a transaction which would value the property at more than C$1 billion ($729 million).
While no deal has officially closed, Vancouver media are reporting that the privately-owned insurer has purchased a 66 percent interest in a vehicle that owns four towers in the city’s 1.5 million square foot (139,000 square metre) Bentall Centre for an undisclosed amount.
The deal would be Anbang’s second major acquisition of commercial real estate assets in Canada, and comes despite expectations by some observers that concerns over currency outflows might slow China’s wave of outbound investments in property.
Ivanhoé Cambridge Working Its China Connections?
The price being paid by Anbang is said by Vancouver’s Financial Post to value the downtown complex, which includes towers that were completed starting in 1969 and finishing in 1981, at over C$1 billion.
In October last year Anbang made its first Canadian real estate purchase by acquiring a 17-storey tower in Toronto’s financial district from Canadian alternative investment firm Brookfield Asset Management for a reported C$110 million ($84.2 million). That deal is believed to have been the first major acquisition of a Canadian commercial property by a Chinese investor.
The Bentall Centre was put up for sale in September last year by its majority owner Ivanhoé Cambridge Inc., a subsidiary of Canadian pension fund manager, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.
The Bentall Centre was co-owned by Ivanhoé Cambridge and Great West Life Assurance, which had been an original investor in the project. The four buildings contain nearly 1.5 million square feet of office space, along with 53,000 square feet of retail space underground.
Ivanhoé Cambridge is well known in China property circles after having made a number of investments on the mainland, including joining a $920 million fundraising round by Shanghai-based Chongbang Group last year. The Canadian firm has also partnered with developers Shanghai Forte Land (a subsidiary of Fosun) and with Bailian Group in China.
Anbang Keeps Up Its Acquisition Streak
With this deal being revealed less than two weeks after China celebrated its lunar new year, and effectively kicked off a new business year, it appears that cross border real estate deals will continue to be in favor with Chinese investors during the year of the monkey.
China has been struggling to support its currency in recent months with analysts estimating that capital outflows grew steeply in December to exceed $1 trillion in 2015.
However, Anbang, which is controlled by the husband of former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s grand-daughter is often seen as a standard bearer of Chinese outbound deals, especially since its record breaking $1.95 billion acquisition of the Waldorf Astoria in 2014.
While conditions are always subject to change this most recent large scale acquisition by one China’s highest profile institutional investors, appears to signal concerns over capital flows have yet to slow the drive of Chinese investors buying real estate assets around the globe.