Foreign investment in commercial real estate reaches record levels

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Analysis by CBRE shows that foreign investors accounted for 56% of the $8.6 billion worth of commercial sales in the September quarter. That is the highest proportion of sales to offshore buyers in the 10 years the figures have been tracked.

The level of overseas purchasing activity had pushed total sales in the quarter 8.5% higher than at the same time last year.

CBRE’s Australian research head Stephen McNabb said Chinese investors have been the driving force behind the growth, and the figures put Australia’s commercial real estate market on track to break more records.

“Given the current level of transaction activity we are on pace to reach the record $29.6 billion in annual sales recorded during 2014,” McNabb said.

“The major source of new capital has been China, with Australia attracting close to 25% of the US$6.5 billion in Chinese investment capital released into global real estate markets in the first half of this year,” he said

CBRE capital markets executive managing director Mark Granter said the surge of Chinese capital had been initially driven by private investors and developers, but that major institutional investors are increasingly becoming involved.

“As expected, we are starting to see the larger Chinese life insurers target opportunities here as they look at geographic diversification to balance their investment portfolios,” Granter said.

“These investors are targeting major gateway cities, with Sydney and Melbourne being high on the radar alongside destinations such as New York, London and Singapore.”

Major Australian acquisitions in the quarter include the $2.5 billion purchase of the Investa portfolio by China Investment Corporation.

Singapore’s Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust was another significant investor during the period, having snapped up a portfolio of 26 logistics properties from GIC in a deal valued at $1.01 billion.

The net investment position of offshore investors now totals $24 billion.

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