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Nine Elms Is Becoming The Graveyard Of Chinese Real Estate Empires

A view of Nine Elms from Battersea back toward Vauxhall station.

It is a twist of fate. In August 2017, Chinese property giant R&F swooped in to pick up the pieces when its fellow Chinese developer, debt-laden Dalian Wanda, decided not to complete the purchase of a massive development site in the Nine Elms area of south east London.

Now R&F is selling a huge development just around the corner at a loss. Nine Elms is not proving a happy hunting ground for Chinese investors in London. 

R&F announced this week it is selling Vauxhall Square, a site with consent for 1.4M SF of residential and office space, to Far East Consortium International, a Hong Kong-based developer with several projects in the UK. 

It is selling the site for £96M and transferring a loan linked to the project to the new owner. It paid CLS Holdings £158M in April 2017, and in October 2020 held the site on its books at a value of £165M, R&F said in a stock market announcement. It said that the sale would see it take a £69M loss. 

The company said it was selling the scheme to reduce its debt and enable it to deploy the money elsewhere in its business. 

R&F is one of several developers that has been affected by the reduction of liquidity in the Chinese real estate development sector as a result of debt defaults from fellow developer Evergrande.

Even before this sale, its huge Nine Elms portfolio, where it is developing 4.4M SF of residential apartments, offices and hotels, had faced challenges. 

Construction workers on the One Nine Elms scheme being built by R&F walked off the site last month.

Construction News reported R&F failed to make payments to principal contractor Multiplex. A week after the walkout, both companies committed to resuming the project. 

One Nine Elms comprises two towers of 56 and 42 storeys that will include 730K SF of residential apartments and a 173-room luxury hotel. 

In January, R&F agreed a payment deferral on $725M owed by its Hong Kong division, a move that put it in “selective default,” Standard & Poor's said. The Telegraph reported in November that R&F had sold fewer than 1 in 15 of the flats at another of its London schemes, Nine Elms Square. R&F said it sold 1 in 3 of the properties that had been marketed.