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Morgan Stanley Makes Big, Quick Uplift On Brexit London Office Bet


Opportunity fund manager Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing made one of the bigger post-Brexit-vote office bets in the London office market toward the end of 2017. It appears to be paying off big style.

Since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union, the general consensus is that appetite for prime assets has remained strong, but assets with leasing risk have been less in demand, because of the uncertainty over the prospects for London office leasing levels after Brexit. That is especially the case in the City, with its exposure to financial services.

When Morgan Stanley partnered with asset manager Greycoat in November 2017 to buy Premier Place from RBS, it was seen as something of a litmus test, and show of confidence. The firm’s opportunity fund paid £145M for a 205K SF vacant office building with 27K SF of retail that would need a thorough refurbishment and to be re-let in the 18 months ahead of Brexit.

This week the joint venture confirmed that trading firm Jane Street is leasing 145K SF a year ahead of the refurbishment completing. And Estates Gazette reported that asset manager Gartner is leasing the other 60K SF of office space, with rents on the building at around £60/SF.

Looking at a recent sale of a very similar asset, 20 Old Bailey, bought by Korean firm Mirae, the fully let building is likely now to be valued at a yield of about 4% to 4.5% and a price per square foot of around £1,400 to £1,500. That would put the value at about £295M.

The cost of the refurbishment is unknown, but whatever that cost, the scheme is likely to yield a very tidy profit for Morgan Stanley and its investors.