The asset-heavy strategy runs counter to the current approach taken by hotel chains, but it's the smart long play.
Blackstone Group LP agreed to sell Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc. to China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. for about $6.5 billion, just three months after it purchased the U.S. luxury-resort company, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The price is about $450 million more than Blackstone paid for Strategic in December. The New York-based private equity firm had been planning to sell individual properties in the portfolio before Anbang made a pre-emptive offer for the entire company, said the people, who asked not to be named because the transaction is private.
Christine Anderson, a spokeswoman for Blackstone, declined to comment, as did Philip Yee, a managing director at Anbang’s North American unit.
The transaction marks a deeper push into U.S. hotels for Beijing-based Anbang, which last year purchased New York’s landmark Waldorf Astoria. It would rank as the largest U.S. real estate purchase by a buyer from mainland China, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Strategic owns 16 properties across the U.S., including the Four Seasons resorts in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Ritz-Carltons in Half Moon Bay and Laguna Niguel, California; San Diego’s Hotel del Coronado; and Manhattan’s JW Marriott Essex House.
Luxury and ultra-luxury properties have been among the most sought-after lodging types in recent years, partly because their locations and construction costs make them hard to replace. Demand for trophy hotels remains strong even as the U.S. lodging industry faces the latter stages of a six-year recovery, with slowing growth in room rates and occupancy.
“U.S. trophy assets continue to be in high demand by offshore investors, both Asian and Middle Eastern,” said Gilda Perez-Alvarado, a managing director at commercial broker Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. “This is being driven by global market volatility, the continued strength of the U.S. dollar and increased allocations for commercial real estate in an effort to diversify investment portfolios.”
Chinese investors have been buying foreign properties amid slowing growth at home and a desire for the perceived safety and value of U.S. real estate. Anbang in February 2015 paid a record $1.95 billion for the Waldorf Astoria on Manhattan’s Park Avenue. The seller was Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., which was majority-owned by Blackstone at the time. Anbang also has purchased or agreed to buy office buildings in New York and Canada.
This article was written by Hui-yong Yu from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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Photo credit: The Four Seasons Jackson Hole is one of 16 properties purchased from Blackstone by Anbang. Four Seasons Hotels