Hines completes £70m London buy with Asian investor

The Houston-based developer and investment management firm has completed the purchase of an office building in London on behalf of an unnamed Asia investor.

Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance (SFMI), Korea’s largest non-life insurance company, has made its first investment outside of Korea, with the purchase of an office in central London in a deal reportedly valued at £70 million (€84 million; $108.5 million).

According to Property Week, the UK commercial property magazine, SFMI has completed the purchase of 1 Bartholomew Lane, an office building next to the Bank of England, via a venture with Houston-based developer and investment management firm Hines.

The 80,000 square foot property was sold by Irish investment firm Ardstone Capital Management. It is leased to tenants including Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of Communications China as well as SFMI’s compatriots and sovereign wealth entity Korea Investment Corporation. According to PW, the property is still two-thirds vacant, however.

The deal brings to an end a long wait by SFMI to invest capital in real estate outside of Korea where the bulk of its portfolio is. Last January, the insurer came close to making its debut investment alongside three other Korean investors in the club purchase of 10 Aldermanbury, a 312,000 square foot office, also the City of London. That deal fell out of bed after the other investors pulled out, paving the way for JP Morgan Asset Management to swoop on the asset.

PERE spoke with SFMI last May at which point the insurer has a real estate portfolio valued at $1.3 billion made entirely up of Korean properties. At that stage SFMI was seeking to invest between $200 million and $400 million a time in between two or three investments in global core markets.

Neither SFMI nor Hines were available immediately.