Strong outlook for Sydney hotels as buyers line up for Sydney Four Seasons Hotel

Strong outlook for Sydney hotels as buyers line up for Sydney Four Seasons Hotel
Strong outlook for Sydney hotels as buyers line up for Sydney Four Seasons Hotel

Sydney's five-star hotel sector strengthened in final quarter of 2012 as prospective buyers line up to purchase one of its prized assets, the Four Seasons in Circular Quay.

Both the occupancy rate and average takings per room per night increased in the December quarter compared with the previous quarter, according to the latest ABS tourist accommodation figures.

Among five-star hotels in Sydney, the occupancy rate was 88.6% with average takings per room per night at $289 compared with an occupancy rate of 84% in the September quarter and average takings per room per night of $259.

Overall, Sydney hotel occupancy rates remained well above 80% in the December quarter with the ABS recorded an occupancy rate of 82.8% over the final three months of 2012 up from 81.3% in the September quarter.

The outlook for the Sydney CBD hotel market also remains strong, according to the latest quarterly Dransfield Hotel Futures report.

The report anticipates occupancy rates in Sydney CBD hotels to remain comfortably above 80% over the remainder of the decade.

The inner Sydney hotel occupancy rate is expected to hover around 85% over the next two years and will average out at 84% over the second half of the decade – the strongest across all the major capital city hotel markets.

Revenue per available room (revPAR) in Sydney is expected to increase relatively strongly over the next two years - by 7.3% in 2013 and by 7.3% in 2014 - but will then taper off in subsequent years averaging 2.6% between 2015 and 2020.

Over this time, the average room rate in a Sydney CBD hotel is expected to increase from $195 per night to $269 per night.

Eureka Funds Management has listed its recently refurbished five-star Sydney Four Season Hotel in Circular Quay up for sale with initial price expectations of around $400 million and expressions of interest closing on April 5.

Standing at 199 George Street, it is one of Sydney’s premier hotels featuring 531 guest rooms and suites, many of which enjoy picturesque views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

The hotel opened in 1983 and operates under a long term management agreement with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts with the he 5, 314 square metre site leased from the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority until 2078.

It ranks as 14th best out of 185 hotels in Sydney, according to TripAdvisor, with room rates starting from around $1,100 per night for a double or twin room with city view.

The distinctive zig-zag shaped hotel was designed by architects Michael Dysart & Partners and is built on the site of a former colonial jail, directly below the spot where Captain Arthur Philip landed in Sydney Cover in 1788.

It was purchase by Eureka in 2006 for $225 million from Chicago-based Walton Street Capital and Four Seasons Hotels.

Walton Street Capital and Four Seasons Hotels bought the hotel - then called the Regent Hotel - for about $155 million in 1998 and spent around $60 million refurbishing the property.


Eureka also owns the Rialto InterContinental Melbourne on Collins Street.

It has recently undergone an extensive $40 million dollar refurbishment program.

Interest is expected from overseas investors following a record number of hotels purchased by overseas investors in 2012. 

This week its been reported that the Malaysian group Mulpha has emerged as a leading contender for the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, which has also attracted bids from at least two wealthy Chinese investors.

The five-star Sydney hotel is now expected to change hands for between $330 million and $340 million, with about eight short-listed parties. 

The hotel has reputedly attracted interest from the Chinese conglomerate Fosun International, which is headed by Guo Guangchang, labelled China’s Warren Buffett.

Fosun International has a 7.1% stake in Club Mediterranee and is opening five Club Med Resorts in China.

Mulpha already owns on the other side of Circular Quay having acquired the Inter­Continental Hotel in 2004 when it bought the Principal portfolio.

Mulpha and sales agents Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels and McVay Real Estate have declined to comment on the sale to the Australian Financial Review.

Last June, Hong Kong-listed Shangri-La Asia paid $352 million to fully own the Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks.

This deal followed soon after the Malaysia-listed Starhill Real Estate Investment Trust, paying $415 million in January for a portfolio of three five-star Marriott hotels – the Sydney Harbour Marriott, the Brisbane Marriott and the Melbourne Marriott.

Last year Eureka spent $15 million refurbishing including the addition of a new restaurant and upgrades to conferencing spaces, the Executive Club Lounge, swimming pool area and lifts.

It follows an $18 million refurbishment to the Grand Ballroom.

The property is marketed with residential development potential.

“An incoming owner has the potential to develop substantial residential components at the hotel through two different scenarios, both of which are subject to obtaining necessary regulatory approvals.

“The first opportunity is to convert up to 231 existing hotel guest rooms to residential apartment units. The second concept is to build an additional residential tower on the northern end of the site,” notes the investor memorandum.

The selling agents are Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels managing director of Craig Collins and Dan McVay, chairman of McVay Real Estate,

“This is a truly unique offering. Sitting on one of Australia’s best sites, in the key corporate and tourism market, operated by one of the world’s best brands,” says Dan McVay.

“The lack of supply means that there are very few opportunities to gain a foothold in the Sydney CBD market. This, coupled with the recent refurbishment and future development potential of the site, means that there will be very strong demand from buyers for this asset,” he adds.

According to Dransfield, the Sydney inner city hotel market underperformed in the first nine months of 2012, with revPAR increasing by 1.2% over this period compared with expectations of 7.9% growth.

The latest report– for the September 2012 quarter – notes that experienced revPAR growth of 1.2% vs. expectations of 7.9% for the Sydney City region, with Dransfield attributing this to hoteliers not wanting to push up rates on stalling demand.

However, average room rates (ARR) and revPAR are expected to strengthen somewhat over 2013.

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer


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