Blackstone has been chosen as the preferred bidder of a prime office building in downtown Seoul, in a deal estimated to fetch 460 billion~480 billion won ($391 million~$410 million), a South Korean newspaper reported on June 10, citing unnamed financial industry sources.
The upcoming transaction is tipped to become the first commercial building purchase for the U.S.-based private equity firm, and the largest single office building contract in the capital of South Korea in value, the Seoul Economic Daily said.
The 24-story office building with six underground floors covers floor area of 62,748 square meters, located in a popular business district, south of the Han River. It has been put up for sale by South Korea’s Mirae Asset Global Investments which has been increasingly snapping up overseas real estate assets. Mirae, a top South Korean mutual fund house, has recently signed a contract to buy Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa in Hawaii from Blackstone, in a deal worth about $780 million. It was the first transaction made between Mirae and Blackstone.
Blackstone is also on the shortlist of a deal for a landmark office and hotel building in central Seoul, called IFC Seoul, which the AIG Group has put on the block. The building consists of IFC Mall, Conrad Seoul Hotel and three office buildings.
Blackstone is speculated to have bid slightly over 3 trillion won ($2.6 billion) for the prospective deal, in which it is competing with China’s sovereign wealth fund CIC, Brookfield of the United States and Singapore’s property investment firm Ascendas, according to industry banking sources. CIC, and Brookfield are also first-time bidders for a South Korean property asset.
Foreign investors have been expanding their presence in South Korea’s property market, accounting for 31% of the office and retail property transactions in Seoul last year, up sharply from 13% in 2010, the newspaper cited Savills, a real estate services provider.
A domestic asset management firm’s head was quoted as saying that global asset managers, including Blackstone, would raise their interest in South Korean market as part of diversification away from North America and Europe.