Singapore property giant City Developments Limited (CDL) has expanded its bets on UK residential with the acquisition of a condo-led mixed use project in London and a rental apartment project in Manchester.
A joint venture between CDL and UK developer Galliard Homes has completed the acquisition of the Morden Wharf development in southeast London’s Royal Borough of Greenwich for an undisclosed sum, according to a release from Galliard Homes. A day later, CDL announced its acquisition of a rental residential project in Manchester for £75.6 million ($92.8 million) representing CDL’s fourth such project in the UK since 2019.
“Despite an uncertain macroeconomic environment, our PRS (private rented sector) assets have shown resilience and strong growth potential. We have continued to scale up our global living sector portfolio to drive growth in our recurring income,” said Sherman Kwek, chief executive of CDL.
The acquisitions come as CDL aims to capitalise on strong demand and resilient rental growth in the UK market and boost its international diversification strategy. The move also comes as UK developers struggle with lower cashflow as housing sales slide and interest rates rise.
First Step in a New JV
Acquired from UK developer LandsecU+I and the Morden College charity, the Morden Wharf project received approval in September 2022 for development of up to 1,500 new homes in a residential-led, mixed-use scheme. Development of the 13.8 acre site is set to be a first project in CDL’s joint venture with Galliard.
The project’s acquisition price and expected completion dates were undisclosed, although local media reports in 2021 noted that Morden College and then developer U+I (since acquired by Landsec) pegged its gross development value at £770 million. A CDL spokesperson told Mingtiandi further details on the project will be provided in due course.
Residents in the project’s 12 blocks of homes, which will stretch up to 36 storeys in height, are promised 360-degree views overlooking such landmarks as the River Thames, Canary Wharf, and The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.
The development will also include approximately 186,000 square feet (17,280 square metres) of commercial floor space, which can accommodate logistics, industrial, and workspace, as well as 50,000 square feet (4,645 square metres) of retail, restaurant, community and convenience space.
The development will link up with green space along a 275-metre riverfront incorporating a walking trail along the Thames and a 3.9-acre riverside park which are being developed under a masterplan for the area.
The project aligns with CDL’s plans to diversify its UK portfolio, the company representative said, with the Singapore firm’s holdings in the country spanning office, retail, student housing, and hotels via its Millennium & Copthorne hospitality subsidiary, in addition to its residential investments.
CBRE and Gerald Eve acted as advisors to the sellers.
Up in Manchester, CDL acquired the 1NQ project from UK developers Marco Living and Axis Real Estate under a forward-purchase agreement, with plans to develop the site into a pair of new-build 10 and 12-storey apartment blocks.
“1NQ marks CDL’s first UK PRS acquisition under a forward-funding arrangement, which enables us to secure our investment at a fixed cost, manage our cash flows over the development period and benefit from potential capital appreciation,” said Kwek.
Located in the Northern Quarter neighbourhood in Manchester’s city centre, the 1NQ project will yield a total of 261 homes comprised of one, two, and three-bedroom apartments, as well as ground floor commercial space, and is situated along Tariff Street and Port Street within the Piccadilly Basin district.
The project is designed to provide 231,127 square feet (21,472 square metres) of gross floor area and is an 8-minute walk from Piccadilly Station and 14-minute walk to Victoria Station. Full planning permission was obtained in October 2023 and construction commenced this month, with completion scheduled for 2026.
The project is described as one of the last residential sites available for development in the Northern Quarter, which was ranked by Time Out magazine as one of the coolest neighbourhoods on earth in 2022.
Manchester has the highest millennial population amongst regional cities in the UK, with the metropolitan area being home to five major universities. The development’s location will appeal to young professionals, students, as well as families, according to CDL’s spokesperson.
Betting on the UK
The 1NQ acquisition brings CDL’s UK rental apartment portfolio to a total of 1,648 operational and pipeline units across Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester and marks CDL’s fourth rental apartment project in the UK since venturing into the market in 2019.
The company’s first step into the market was its acquisition of The Junction, a development site for a 665-unit project in Leeds. This was followed by a pair of 2021 acquisitions – a 352-unit forward-funded project in Manchester named The Castings, and the 370-unit The Octagon development in Birmingham.
The Junction obtained practical completion for three out of five blocks (comprising 307 units) and achieved committed occupancy of over 90 percent as of October 2023. The remaining two blocks are on track for completion by the fourth quarter of 2023.
In addition to its rental apartment projects, CDL has close to 2,400 student housing beds in the UK following its acquisition of five student housing assets in Birmingham, Canterbury, Coventry, Leeds, and Southampton for £215 million ($266.5 million) in December 2022. In March of this year, CDL purchased the mixed-use St Katharine Docks complex in central London from funds advised by Blackstone for £395 million (then $468.2 million).
Outside of the UK, CDL’s residential portfolio comprises rental apartment assets in Japan and Australia.
“This year, our Group’s global PRS portfolio has grown by almost 70 percent to 4,489 operational and pipeline units in the UK, Japan, Australia and the US, up from 2,640 units last year,” said Kwek.