Business / Companies

Anbang buys Manhattan office tower

By JACK FREIFELDER (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-26 09:54

Anbang buys Manhattan office tower

View of the headquarters of Anbang Insurance Group in Beijing, China, Feb 1, 2015. [Photo/IC]

Anbang Insurance Group Co Ltd has bought an office building in New York City, reportedly for between $400 million and $500 million, in one of Manhattan's most desirable areas, according to real estate executives.

The tower is at 717 Fifth Avenue on East 56th Street, known as the Plaza District because of the nearby Plaza Hotel. Anbang's deal is for 22 floors of the 26-story building above retail space along Fifth Avenue, which is separately owned and used by luxury fashion brands Dolce & Gabbana and Armani.

Anbang acquired the property from New York-based Blackstone Group LP, a private-equity firm, Crain's New York Business reported last week. The price was not disclosed, but Bloomberg News reported it could approach $400 million to $500 million.

"The district between 5th and 6th Avenues has been desirable forever, and it's becoming more desirable," Howard Dolch, executive vice-president of the New York-based Lansco Corp, said. "The Crown Building just sold for a record-setting number, so international investor money is attracted to 'Class A' property. It's as simple as that."

The retail and office space in the Crown Building-one block north and smaller than 717 Fifth Avenue-sold for $1.75 billion.

Alan Victor, an executive vice-president with Lansco, said foreign buyers are going after top US properties, with deals such as Anbang's purchase of the Waldorf Astoria New York hotel in October.

"That's what's going on in the market," Victor said. "Usually investments are made on a long-term return basis, so some are willing to pay more in the sale and then wait for the market to catch up with them."

Nearby stores to the property acquired by Anbang include Tiffany & Co, Gucci, Abercrombie & Fitch and jeweler Harry Winston. Some of the tenants at 717 Fifth Avenue include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, JC Flowers & Co, a private-equity firm and Island Capital Group, an international real estate merchant bank.

Anbang is a leading Chinese insurance company. It was founded in 2004 and it is based in Beijing. The company has made a number of high-profile purchases in the past several months, including a $1.95 billion deal with Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc for the Waldorf Astoria.

The price is the largest ever paid for a US hotel, according to research group Lodging Econometrics.

The privately held insurer is considering an initial public offering, which could garner as much as $2 billion, according to Bloomberg News.

Ted Li, executive director of capital markets for Cushman & Wakefield Inc, said that Anbang's series of international acquisitions are helping the company position itself as a global giant with multiple investments in insurance and real estate.

Li, who oversees the global commercial real estate firm's daily operations in Beijing, said many Chinese companies have encountered a number of problems in the process of globalization, including cultural conflicts and lawsuits, which Anbang might also face.

An Baijie in Beijing contributed to this story.

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