DEALS: Gaw-dropping development

Gaw Capital Partners, the Hong Kong-based private equity real estate firm, has been busy of late acquiring landmark office sites in London.

It started last September, when the firm upped its exposure to the UK’s capital with the £191 million (€244.7 million; $311.5 million) acquisition of Exchange Tower, a 490,000 square foot office redevelopment in London, on behalf of a group of Korean institutions including the Korean Teachers’ Credit Union. The seller of the 490,000 square foot office redevelopment site was BlackRock, which had acquired the asset via its BlackRock Europe Property Fund in 2010.

It continued its London push in January when, on behalf of the Chinese insurance group Taikang Life Insurance, it purchased the 204,500 square foot Class A office building Milton Gate. The total value of the deal was understood to be around £198 million with the net initial yield estimated to be 5 percent.

Gaw also advised Ping An Insurance, one of China’s largest insurance companies, on its purchase of the Tower Place in London from Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management for £327 million. The landmark property located in London’s EC3 insurance district is a Class A office building spread over 385,000 square feet. It is said to be 99 percent occupied.

But, it was the firm’s most recent London foray which has piqued the interest of the market. Last month, it was revealed that Gaw is leading a consortium of private Asian investors to buy a 480,000 square foot London office development let to Google for around £500 million.

Reports said that contracts have exchanged on the off-market deal for which the Hong Kong-based private equity real estate firm is acting as adviser and co-investor. The transaction, when completed, would be the biggest single-asset investment deal in London’s West End in recent years.

The development, 123-151 Buckingham Palace Road in London’s Victoria neighborhood, involves two separate but interlinked assets. Approximately 97 percent of the rent on the properties comes from tenants Google, PA Consulting, Eni and Sky Media. The property comprises 193,000 square feet of offices and approximately 10,000 square feet of retail space. The internet search giant occupies 78,000 square feet in the building.

The two properties have been trading hands in recent years with DivcoWest, the San Francisco-based real estate investment firm, agreeing to buy 123 Buckingham Palace Road for around £200 million only last year.

Meanwhile, Malaysian hajj pilgrims fund Lembaga Tabung Haji completed its acquisition of 151 Buckingham Palace Road from Ivanhoé Cambridge in March 2013, for around £205 million.