ASIA NEWS: Flying another’s British flag

One of the lengthiest tenures in Asian private real estate is poised to come to an end. Last month, Grosvenor, the London-based property company, announced it is to part with Nicholas Loup, its Asia chief executive, who started its operations in the region in 1994.

Loup will see through a six-month handover period, working alongside his successor, former UBS Global Asset Management Greater China head and HKR International executive director Benjamin Cha. After that, he is expected to join Chelsfield, another London-based company run by one of the UK’s best known property entrepreneurs, Elliott Bernard.

It will be a case of winding back the clock for Loup as he seeks to build from an office in Hong Kong another Asia platform for an English business.

Loup will be responsible for a two-pronged strategy firstly intended to tap his Asian investor network with a view to capitalizing Chelsfield’s UK and European investment programs. 

The firm’s most notable recent deal was the €1.225 billion acquisition alongside Saudi conglomerate The Olayan Group of Italian property company Risanamento’s French property portfolio earlier this year. Chelsfield also partnered with Qatari Diar, the property investment company of the Qatar Investment Authority, to buy and redevelop the US Embassy in London in 2009 at a cost thought to extend to about £500 million (€630 million; $817 million).

Chelsfield is understood to be keen to supplement its current funding streams from the Middle East with Asian capital and sees Loup’s connections to certain high net worth family offices in Hong Kong and China as well as certain state wealth funds as an ideal way to achieving that aim. Loup played an important part in developing Grosvenor’s long-standing relationships with Chinese sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation, for example.

The second part of Loup’s remit will be to expand Chelsfield’s own property business into Asia. He has been asked to build a network of joint venture partners that ultimately will see it form development and investment alliances with Asian partners, much as he did for Grosvenor.

Indeed, observers reckoned that among Loup’s greatest career achievements was the establishing of a luxury residential brand that has become something of a hallmark for the firm in the region. That started with the development of Grosvenor Place in Hong Kong’s Repulse Bay in 2004. An early example of cross-marketing with other luxury brands, the development was sold en bloc to a cash-rich buyer for a 25 percent premium to marketed value within just four weeks.

Chelsfield are to inherit a regional leader that has built up a business from one person, himself, to 55 staff today, and which now accounts for about £840 million of assets. According to sources close to the man, he was looking for a 10-year challenge after life at Grosvenor, but even halving those headline statistics would constitute something of a significant expansion for Chelsfield.

Grosvenor is understood to be the only British company to have developed a property business spanning Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo. With the man who did it about to take the helm of another British company in the region, Grosvenor may soon have company in that regard.