CIC increases London property holding

Updated: 2012-10-26 09:28

By Diao Ying in London (China Daily)

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China's sovereign wealth fund is expanding its presence in the United Kingdom by getting more involved in London's property market.

CIC increases London property holding

Visitors take in the view from the Shard during its inauguration in London. China Investment Corp is in talks to buy Deutsche Bank's headquarters building in the city to gain a stronger foothold in its property market. [Photo/Agencies] 

China Investment Corporation, the manager of China's $410 billion sovereign fund, is in talks to buy Deutsche Bank's headquarters building in London for 250 million pounds ($403 million), according to British media reports.

The planned purchase is taking place amid a shifting pattern of China's overseas investment in recent years, from financial assets such as bonds to real assets such as infrastructure and real estate, said Mark Williams, London-based chief Asia economist of macroeconomic research company Capital Economics.

The building, known as Winchester House, is being sold by KanAm, the German open-ended real estate fund.

The fund bought the building in 2003 and then leased it to Deutsche Bank. It is the head office of the bank's global investment banking operation, according to KanAm's website.

The purchase would mean CIC has a presence in the property market in both of London's financial centers - the City of London and Canary Wharf .

CIC made its first investment in the UK's property market in 2009, when it became a shareholder in Songbird Estates, which owns Canary Wharf, in the wake of the financial crisis. The district is home to the global headquarters of banks such as HSBC and Credit Suisse, and 90,000 people work there.

The sovereign wealth fund is also involved in infrastructure projects in the UK. In January, it acquired an 8.86 percent stake in Thames Water, the UK's largest water and sewage company.

The UK is more open to Chinese investment than other developed economies such as the United States, said Williams. The British government has maintained a position that China can be helpful when the economy in the UK is not doing well.

"I expect a wave of Chinese investment in the UK in the coming years in sectors like real estate," he said.

London's property market has been attractive to global investors due to its role as one of the world's main financial centers, and the fact that most global financial companies have a presence there. Many European bank headquarters are located in London.

A report by property company Jones Lang LaSalle said investment in central London reached $11.76 billion at the end of the first half of this year, up 24 percent year-on-year. This was mainly driven by overseas investment, which amounted to $8.2 billion.

"Despite continued economic uncertainty in the eurozone, we will continue to see investor demand driven by overseas capital, notably private Asian and sovereign wealth funds," the company said.

In the first half of 2012, Asian investors accounted for 16 percent of transactions, according to the report.