Shenzhen’s Cheung Kei Group has recently completed the biggest real estate deal in London’s Canary Wharf since 2014, buying up a 12-storey prime office building in the financial district for £410 million ($530 million).
Undeterred by mainland China’s tightening controls on outbound investment, Cheung Kei is acquiring 20 Canada Square from Brookfield Properties in its first real estate purchase in Britain, according to an announcement.
The closing of the London office deal comes a year after the private conglomerate owned by mainland billionaire Chen Hongtian spent $580 million to buy a 15-storey commercial complex in Hong Kong.
Grabbing a Prime London Property
Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the building at the intersection of Upper Bank Street and South Colonnade in the financial district is set to be renamed Cheung Kei Centre following the closing of the transaction.
Originally developed by Canary Wharf Group in 2003, 20 Canada Square has 556,000 square feet (51,654 square metres) of office space, along with 16,697 square feet (1,551 square metre) of ground-floor retail space. The grade A office building, held in a virtual freehold, is said to be mostly leased out with tenants including the trading division of oil giant BP and financial information provider S&P Global, which each occupy around 243,000 square feet (22,575 square metres).
Canadian real estate investor Brookfield bought the building in 2005 for £326.4 million, and put it up for sale through property consultancy JLL this past March. Cheung Kei was first reported to be buying 20 Canada Square last month, outbidding Saudi Arabia’s Sidra Capital and a joint venture between Houston-based Hines and HSBC Alternative Investments for the building.
Mainland Tycoon Pays Cash for First UK Deal
While some mainland investors have run into issues getting the capital to close their overseas transactions, Chen reportedly paid in cash for the property within a month of signing the purchase agreement. The deal is the largest property sale on the Canary Wharf estate since October 2014, when the Qatar Investment Authority bought HSBC Tower at 8 Canada Square for £1.1 billion ($1.7 billion).
London continues to be a prime target for Chinese and Hong Kong property tycoons undaunted by political uncertainty in Britain. A roster of Hong Kong firms including SEA Holdings, Kwok Family Interests, Chinese Estates and New World Development have scooped up a series of commercial and residential projects in London for over $2.4 billion since the start of 2017, while mainland developer CC Land agreed to buy the Leadenhall Building, the city’s tallest skyscraper, for $1.42 billion in March.
Shenzhen Firm with Hong Kong Ties Ventures Abroad
Although Cheung Kei Group is based in the mainland city of Shenzhen, the chairman of the privately held investment conglomerate has made Hong Kong his home since 1991. Born in the city of Foshan, Chen got his start in the garment business before investing in hotels and other real estate in Guangdong province.
The tycoon, who is also the largest shareholder of Hong Kong-listed develoepr China South City, has an estimated net worth of RMB 18 billion ($2.7 billion). The previously obscure billionaire made headlines in Hong Kong by buying the city’s most expensive house for HK$2.1 billion ($271 million) in June of last year.
The following month, Chen added to his Hong Kong portfolio when Ceung Kei Group bought the east tower of Wheelock and Company’s One Harbourgate, a 15-storey office property in Kowloon, for HK$4.5 billion ($577 million).