2 years ago
LOS ANGELES—Despite US commercial real estate’s undeniable appeal to investors looking for a safe haven amid global uncertainty, the most concentrated cross-border capital flows in the sector don’t come from overseas. Instead, they continue to come from north of the border, says CBRE. “While we have seen rapidly rising Chinese global investment and oil-rich countries in the Middle East or Norway increasing their allocations to global real estate, Canadian buyers continue to dominate foreign investment in the US and should remain on the radar screens of American investors and owners of US real estate,” says Chris Ludeman, global president, CBRE Capital Markets. Investors from Canada accounted for 26% of the $41 billion of global direct investment in US commercial property in 2014, says CBRE, citing data from Real Capital Analytics. Already in 2015, they’ve committed $2.75 billion to US real estate, CBRE says. These buyers achieved their $9.7-billion tally for the year—more than twice as large as that of the second largest global investor in the US—more through deal volume than through large acquisitions. RCA data show 393 Canadian investments of at least $2.5 million across the US last year. Only two of those made it into RCA’s roster of the year’s top domestic transactions: the $545.8-million acquisition of 450 Park Ave. in New York City; and the $1.53-billion Blackstone Cambridge Office Portfolio encompassing properties in Boston and Cambridge, MA. Both were joint ventures involving Oxford Properties Group, the real estate arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, which is also a key player in the Hudson Yards mega-project on Manhattan’s Far West Side. For Canadian investors looking outside their own country, the US is by far the most popular destination. Of the $22 billion that Canada invested outside of its borders last year, 44% went to the US, The next highest shares—17% and 14%—went to Australia and the UK, respectively. That being said, the US market share of Canadian global CRE investment was actually below its 2007-14 average of 48%. CBRE notes that Canadian investment is more geographically widespread across the US compared to other global capital. That’s of a piece with the magnitude of Canadian investment, its high degree of familiarity with US markets beyond the gateway cities, and the relatively low expenditure of money and time for Canadian investors to come to the US. Unsurprisingly, New York City was the leading destination for Canadian real estate capital in ‘14, followed by Boston and Broward County in Florida, the latter on the strength of a significant hotel acquisition. Given its proximity to Canada and, especially, Vancouver, it follows that Seattle also ranked high on the list. With 12% of the cross-border market share, Norway contributed $4.4 billion of the total, a 120% year-over-year increase in dollar volume. A healthy share of Norway’s total came from three large deals involving Norges Investment Bank Management: the sovereign wealth fund’s 45% interest in Boston Properties’ 601 Lexington Ave. in Manhattan and two Boston towers, which RCA values at $1.8 billion; its $1-billion JV with MetLife on One Beacon St. in Boston; and its MetLife partnership on the Thurman Arnold Building in Washington, DC, which traded for about $501 million. China and Japan reached total investment levels in the US of $3.8 billion and $3.5 billion, respectively, each representing 9% of the global total. German buyers bought $2.9 billion worth of US real estate, representing 7% of the global total. Singapore registered 5% of the total, a figure that could be considerably larger this year when that nation’s SWF, GIC, closes on its $8.1-billion acquisition of the Blackstone Group’s IndCor industrial property portfolio. “Canadians, other global investors and Americans share the same challenge: finding attractive opportunities with reasonable pricing that can produce a favorable risk-adjusted return,” says Ludeman. “That said, we expect the investment climate to remain brisk and US volumes will continue rising in 2015.”