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Vietnam-Based Investors Complete Largest City Office Deal This Year

Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam

A pair of Vietnam-based investors making their first foray into UK real estate have completed the largest City of London office investment so far in what has been a dire year for transactions. 

Lion Plaza Propco completed a deal to buy the 265K SF Lion Plaza office on Old Broad Street for £209M, CoStar reported. The building is the home of U.S. law firm White & Case and was bought from German fund manager Doric Asset Finance.

The building was originally put up for sale at the end of last year for £263M, a 4.75% yield, CoStar said. A sale at £209M represents a 6% yield and a 20% discount to the original sale price. 

Standard Chartered Private Bank provided a loan of around £105M to fund the purchase. 

Companies House documents show that the ultimate beneficial owners of Lion Plaza Propco are Maurice Duc Hinh Nguyen and Thu Thuy Ngo, both listed as Canadian nationals resident in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

A Securities and Exchange Commission document shows them to have financial relationships with the British International School Co., a Vietnamese education company and Thien Huong, a Vietnamese company with interests in property and consumer goods.

Oakbridge Property Investment Management co-founder Fraser Wilson is listed as a director of Lion Plaza Propco. Wilson was previously head of property at Dragon Capital, the Vietnamese property fund manager. His new company specialises in advising Asian investors on UK property transactions. 

Law firm Norton Rose Fulbright advised Standard Chartered on the loan it provided for the deal. 

“This transaction is highly significant and is the biggest office sale in the City of London so far this year,” partner Sarah Cullen said in a statement. “It demonstrates that, despite the challenging current economic conditions, there remains overseas investor confidence and appetite in prime London office space.”

City investment volume totalled just £400M in the second quarter of the year, CoStar data showed, with constant high inflation and the resulting higher interest rates causing investors to hold off transactions. That figure is 70% down on the first quarter, and 75% down on the 10-year quarterly average.