Casino billionaire Angela Leong has reportedly become the latest Hong Kong investor to bet on London’s property market, scooping up a historic building in the city’s Midtown district for around £250 million ($338 million).
Leong, the fourth wife of Macau magnate Stanley Ho, purchased Aldwych House, a recently redeveloped grade A office property in central London, from Rowan Asset Management and GI Partners, according to a Bloomberg report citing people with knowledge of the deal.
Built in 1926, the 10-storey building near the Covent Garden theatre district houses a diverse mix of tenants including WeWork and the London School of Economics. The acquisition adds to more than $3.8 billion of London deals by Hong Kong buyers this year, as a weaker British pound following last year’s Brexit vote pulls in record levels of Asian investment.
WeWork Moves into Classic Building Post-Facelift
The 174,000 square foot (16,165 square metre) property is located at 71-91 Aldwych, nearby the Strand thoroughfare and the Temple tube station. London-based fund manager Rowan teamed up with US private equity firm GI Partners and Taurus Investment Holding to acquire the building for £82.7 million ($111.5 million) in 2011, with the aim of refurbishing and repositioning the historic property.
After the purchase, Rowan oversaw a £7 million renovation of the building which brought 18,000 square feet of office space to the market, along with a new reception and entrance hall, atrium and balconies. In March 2014, Rowan and GI Partners obtained a £70 million loan facility from Blackstone Mortgage Trust for a second phase of refurbishment, which upgraded more than 130,000 square feet of space and added rooftop offices.
Aldwych House was reported to be nearly 83 percent occupied this past February, after a flurry of lettings at the end of 2016. The diverse tenant mix ranges from legal and consulting to music publishing firms and includes co-working operator WeWork, which has taken 62,000 square feet (5,760 square metres) of space.
Hong Kong Investors Rush into London Real Estate
Hong Kong investors have helped fuel a boom in the London market in recent months, racking up over $3.8 billion in commercial properties this year alone. Sauce maker Lee Kum Kee Group spent $1.7 billion on the “Walkie Talkie” building at 20 Fenchurch Street in July, marking the priciest-ever transaction of a single commercial building in the city.
In February, New World Development chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun committed $1.25 billion to the Peninsula Place mixed-use development via his privately held vehicle Knight Dragon. SEA Holdings, Kwok Family Interests, and Chinese Estates have been among the other Hong Kong players to take a bite out of London this year.
Leong, who is executive director of Macao casino giant SJM Holdings, has built a portfolio of nearly $3 billion in properties mainly in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. A company controlled by Leong reportedly bought out the remaining 50 stake she did not own in the boot-shaped L’Avenue office and retail complex in Shanghai’s Hongqiao area last year.
Leong has a net worth of $3.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.