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Can Other Countries Pick Up China's NYC Foreign Investment Slack?

This morning, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund acquired a 95% stake in 60 Wall St for more than $1B, the largest building sale of 2017 by a mile so far. 

60 Wall Street, bought by GIC

GIC paid $640/SF for its majority stake in the 28-year-old building, fully leased to Deutsche Bank. Paramount Group, which owned a minority stake in the property, valued at $1.1B, will own 5%. GIC bought out Morgan Stanley's majority stake. 

Last year, 45% of all office buyers in Manhattan were based outside of the U.S., according to Colliers International. There's no reason to think the appetite of foreign money will slow; global markets haven't exactly steadied after a choppy 2016, and while many see the NYC market as overpriced, most foreign buyers are looking for stable investments, not profit mills.

But one of the biggest sources of real estate capital will be on the sidelines in New York City this year: China.

"It's become increasingly clear the Chinese government clampdown on outbound investment announced two months ago is real and ferocious," China First Capital CEO Peter Fuhrman said. "Virtually no money is getting out for the time being. Layer-upon-layer of approvals are now required to determine if an investment is in China's national interest. Especially disfavored are larger real estate acquisitions."

Peter Fuhrman, CEO of China First Capital

There's a chance these regulations may not stick for long, said Fuhrman, who will speak at Bisnow's NYC Foreign Investment event next week. China has imposed restrictions before, only to turn the spigot back on shortly thereafter. But it's unlikely that will be the case now.

"This time, though, the rules are far tougher and being enforced with rigor," Fuhrman said. "The only question now is how long will these severe controls remain in place. My personal view, given the likelihood of continued downward pressure on the renminbi, is that it may be many long months, or even more than a year, before the capital tap is again opened."

So who could fill the gap? Canada, as always, will be active, even if those investors are not viewed with as much intrigue as Middle East or East Asian funds. Ivanhoé Cambridge, Oxford Properties and Brookfield are all long-established and active.

Benedict Realty Group president Daniel Benedict told us Japan "is back in a big way, looking to re-enter the market." And before GIC's big purchase, German fund Union Investment Real Estate GmbH held the crown for the biggest acquisition of 2017, paying $203.3M for the Courtyard WTC Downtown.

Those interested in taking advantage of the window of opportunity China is leaving behind might have to do so quickly. Although the restrictions could be in place longer than a year, they don't change the appetite investors from the world's most populous country have.

"Chinese appetite for investing in U.S. real estate," Fuhrman said, "is enormous and increasing."