New York City’s Waldorf Astoria hotel is set to become the biggest prize yet for buyers from China who have been pouring money into U.S. real estate as they seek stable investments outside their country.
Beijing’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. agreed to pay $1.95 billion for the 1,232-room tower on Park Avenue, an Art Deco landmark and one of Manhattan’s signature properties. That would be the highest price for a single existing hotel in the country, and the most paid for a standing U.S. building by a Chinese buyer, said Kevin Mallory, global head of the hotels unit of commercial real estate brokerage CBRE Group Inc.
“We’re seeing a diversification strategy being employed by insurance companies and others, and it’s also true when it comes to private Chinese investors,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’ve seen a lot of wealth generated there over the last decade, and we see see private investors diversifying their portfolio around the globe.”
The Waldorf deal follows such high-profile New York acquisitions as Shanghai-based Greenland Holding Group Inc.’s purchase this year of a 70 percent interest in the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. In late 2013, billionaire Guo Guangchang’s Fosun International Ltd. paid $725 million for lower Manhattan’s 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, the former headquarters of Chase Manhattan Bank.
Earlier last year, a group including Zhang Xin, co-founder of Shanghai’s Soho China Ltd., took a 40 percent stake in midtown Manhattan’s General Motors Building, one of New York’s most-valuable office towers, said Doug Murphy, director of analytics at Real Capital Analytics Inc., a research firm that tracks commercial real estate sales. That $1.4 billion deal was the largest Chinese purchase of a U.S. building before the pending Waldorf sale, he said.
Including Anbang’s purchase of the Waldorf from Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., Chinese investors will have bought $2.7 billion of New York-area real estate in 2014, topping last year’s $2.6 billion, according to Real Capital.
In the past couple years, the Chinese government has allowed the country’s insurance companies to allocate a portion of their funds into global real estate, Mallory said. With concerns about volatility in the property market at home, New York and and other major markets around the world, including London and Paris, “tend to be safe havens for any global investor,” he said.
–With assistance from Nadja Brandt in Los Angeles and Heather Perlberg in Washington.
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