Citi’s London HQ Is For Sale For £1.2B. Its Recent History Is Awesome
The Middle Eastern owners of Citi’s 1.2M SF London HQ have put the building up for sale for £1.2B, according to Bloomberg. Its recent history is the boom, bust and recovery of real estate over the past decade in microcosm.
Kuwaiti-backed AGC Equity Partners, which bought the building for £1B in 2013, has appointed CBRE to market it, Bloomberg said. The company has already taken some profit on its purchase after refinancing the £661M loan it used to fund the purchase, and is looking for a further £200M profit as it bets that the interest in trophy London assets will not abate in the final run-up to Brexit.
Cast your mind back to November 2007: The last time the building changed hands sums up the debt-fuelled boom. A joint venture between Glenn Maud’s Propinvest and Irish investor Derek Quinlan — a former lawyer and tax inspector — bought the building for £1.1B from Royal Bank of Scotland, a 4.5% yield. RBS had come to own it after deciding it should be a property investor as well as a lender.
That purchase was made even though the sub-prime mortgage crisis was already well underway, with lending markets starting to dry up. Propinvest and Quinlan used £870M of senior debt and a £204M junior loan from RBS itself, putting the loan-to-value at a punchy 98%, with around £20M of equity used.
This debt became a problem for the deal. One of the senior lenders was Allied Irish Bank, all of whose property loans were subsumed by Ireland’s bad bank Nama. The junior loan from RBS matured in 2010 and could not be refinanced.
Both of these lenders pushed for a sale, but including interest rate swaps put in place at the time of the deal, total liabilities against the building rose to £1.7B against a value of £1B to £1.1B.
Any sale was further complicated by the fact that the lease in place was seemingly valuable, being for more than 20 years with inflation-linked uplifts from the original £58M a year. But, it was to a subsidiary of Citi rather than the company itself, and a couple of legal cases cast doubt on whether Citi would be on the hook for the rental payments or could wriggle out of them.
Canary Wharf Group bought the junior loan to try and take control of the building, but didn’t manage this. Several attempts to sell the building were cancelled before eventually the debt was restructured and the legal situation ironed out, and AGC purchased the building for around £1B in 2013.
Yields for trophy London offices have fallen since then, but as Bloomberg points out, Citi subleases most of the space in the building rather than occupying itself, changing the investment prospect.