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Meet The 1 Chinese Investor Still Investing In The West

30 South Colonnade

According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, not a single dollar from the country was invested in overseas real estate. Nothing.

Chinese outbound real estate investment has been diminishing rapidly since the country’s government put a block on it in 2017: from $35B in 2017 to $7.5B in 2018, according to CBRE. In 2019, that has dried up completely. Well, almost completely.

One firm does seem to have been given permission to invest overseas— it is investing in distressed deals in London, and at the same time clearing up messes made by its peers.

Cindat Capital has closed on a deal to buy 30 South Colonnade in Canary Wharf, according to Chinese news service Mingtiandi. The price was not specified, but previous reports indicated a deal had been struck at around £135M for the 305K SF building.

That is a sharp discount to the £215M that fellow Chinese firm HNA paid for the building in 2015. HNA has been under pressure to sell assets to pay back debt, and another Canary Wharf building it owns, 17 Columbus Courtyard, is also up for sale after being put into receivership when HNA defaulted on a loan to one of its Chinese lenders.

Cindat has teamed up with private equity firm Oaktree and asset manager Quadrant Estates to buy the building, which will be vacated by Reuters later this year.

Beijing-based Cindat was founded by Merrill Lynch bankers Greg Peng and Ehrfei Liu in 2015 as a private equity firm with a mandate to invest Chinese capital abroad. Peng was one of the founders of Merrill’s Asian private equity division and ran the bank’s entire China business. Liu is an investment banker with a long roster of major Chinese initial public offerings and M&A deals on his CV.

Cindat’s ownership is a joint venture between three firms, the most significant of which is China Cinda (HK) Asset Management. China Cinda is a Chinese state-owned enterprise, having been spun out of China Construction Bank, the second-largest bank in the world after Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Since capital controls were put in place limiting outbound real estate investment, it is typically investors like Cindat that are either state-owned or have close links to state-owned enterprises that have been given the green light to invest abroad. Other examples include developer R&F, which has snapped up numerous sites in London and is embarking on a £4.5B residential development programme.