Sinar Mas Land has become the latest Asian investor to make waves in the London real estate market, with the Singapore-listed developer countering a wave of inbound investment with the sale of a freehold office block in Soho.
The company controlled by Indonesia’s Widjaja family, famed for its Asia Pulp and Paper business, sold its entire interest in 10 Great Pulteney Street for a cash consideration of £72 million ($99.3 million), Sinar Mas said in a statement to the Singapore exchange. Local press accounts identified the buyer as UK online fashion retailer Boohoo.
The sale by Sinar Mas, which holds overseas properties in Malaysia, China and Australia, as well as another asset in London, swims against a current of Singapore-listed players upping their holdings in the UK market.
West End Sale
Sinar Mas is selling the building, known as Unlimited House, just under seven years after purchasing the 47,044 square foot (4,270 square metre) West End asset from a joint venture between developer Endurance Land and GE for £57.28 million, according to an earlier report by Savills.
Built in 1997, the seven-storey building, which was formerly known as Warwick House, includes 44,116 square feet of Grade A office space and a self-contained five-unit residential block of 2,928 square feet.
Asking rents in the building are around £75 per square foot per month, according to local listings, with current tenants including media agency Unlimited Group, Nokia and DJMPAN Unlimited. At the stated compensation, Boohoo, which had reportedly been on the lookout for a new home in the West End, is paying £15,177 ($20,925) per square foot of floor area.
Unlimited House is to become home to all of Boohoo’s London-based product, marketing, technology and central support teams, offering flexible working for about 600 staff, Fashion Network reported.
Boohoo currently leases a 15,000 square foot space at Euston Tower in the central London borough of Camden, according to the Evening Standard. The paper had reported in February that Boohoo was searching for more office space after an acquisition spree in which it picked up several distressed British retail brands, including Debenhams and the Arcadia divisions Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis.
Sinar Mas Slims Down
Based on the net asset value of £56.5 million as of 31 December 2020, Sinar Mas Land would have recorded a gain on disposal of about £15.6 million, the company said in a filing with the Singapore Exchange.
The net asset value of the London property represented 2.26 percent of the group’s NAV, Sinar Mas said. The company plans to use the proceeds for repayment of the bank loan on the property, as well as for working capital and future acquisitions.
With Unlimited House on its way out, the developer still owns the Alphabeta Building, an office property in the City of London that it acquired in 2015 for £259 million.
Sinar Mas’s sale was announced just over four months after Singapore’s Sun Venture achieved London’s biggest real estate deal of 2020 with its $742 million buy of 1&2 Ludgate. In October last year, SGX-listed Suntec REIT had agreed to spend $560 million to pick up a half-stake in the Nova Victoria office complex, which is also located on the West End.
Sinar Mas is one of Indonesia’s biggest real estate developers and also has a portfolio of projects in mainland China, including the Shanghai Sinar Mas Plaza and the Shanghai Arch, the Shanghai Bund Center and the Ningbo Sinar Mas Plaza in Zhejiang province.
Sinar Mas Pulp and Paper, which produces and distributes its products under the Asia Pacific Paper brand, is the best-known unit of Sinar Mas Group internationally.
Since the death of founder Eka Tjipta Widjaja in 2019, Sinar Mas has drawn attention for a squabble involving the 40 children of the deceased tycoon and multiple widows.
Bloomberg reported last July that Freddy Widjaja, a son of the late founder, had asked a Jakarta court to recognise him and five of his siblings as legal heirs to his father and designate a dozen companies and their assets as their inheritance.
Sinar Mas dismissed Freddy Widjaja’s claims as “baseless”, saying that as a child born “out of wedlock” he held no stake in any of the group’s companies.