China leapfrogs Japan and Australia to become APAC’s largest commercial real estate investment market

China leapfrogs Japan and Australia to become APAC’s largest commercial real estate investment market
China leapfrogs Japan and Australia to become APAC’s largest commercial real estate investment market

China became the Asia Pacific region’s largest investment market for income-earning real estate for the first time in 2016.

Analysis by Real Capital Analytics (RCA) showed that an increasing number of transactions in its second tier cities, plus strong inflows from regional and global investors, powered China to the top spot over Japan and Australia by transaction volumes.

A total of US$14.0 billion (RMB 95.2 billion) in value of real estate, excluding development sites, changed hands in China in the fourth quarter, RCA data revealed.

This was a 32% increase from the same period a year earlier and lifted total investment value for all of 2016 in China by 10% to US$36.5 billion (RMB 243.3 billion).

Deals in existing properties more than doubled in Chongqing, Tianjin and Hangzhou, propelling these three cities into Asia Pacific’s 25 top investment destinations, some for the first time.

Petra Blazkova, RCA’s Senior Director of Analytics for Asia Pacific, said: “This is a watershed moment for China’s commercial real estate market, heralding the next phase of its transformation into one of the world’s major destinations for global property investors.

While development of new sites remains a prominent feature of its property market, higher deal volumes for standing assets in cities other than Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen are a sign of the growing maturity and depth of China’s investment market.”

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China leapfrogs Japan and Australia to become APAC’s largest commercial real estate investment market

China also claimed another record first in 2016 as Asia Pacific’s top destination for foreign investors, who completed US$10.2 billion (RMB 68.0 billion) of property deals there last year.

The total value of transactions by foreign investors has tripled since the 2009 Global Financial Crisis.

The largest foreign investment in China in 2016 was the US$3.0 billion (RMB 20.0 billion) sale of Shanghai Century Link to ARA Asset Management.

In Hong Kong, a market highly influenced by Mainland Chinese investments, overall investment volumes reached US$13.5 billion (HKD 105.2 billion) in 2016, a 15% increase year-on-year (YoY).

Notable transactions that drove this increase included the sale of Mass Mutual Tower and Dah Sing Financial Centre, both for over US$1.0 billion.

In spite of the stronger performance by China and most other Asian markets in 2016, overall investment in the Asia Pacific region fell by 14% YoY to US$132.5 billion on the weakness of the Japanese and Australian markets.

Overall investment volumes in Japan stood at US$29.0 billion (JPY 3.2 trillion) for 2016, a decline of 37% YoY that meant it slipped into second place behind China for the first time.

Third-ranked Australia suffered a drop of 32% YoY in the value of completed transactions to US$22.8 billion (AUD 30.6 billion) last year.

RCA’s analysis showed that listed real estate investment trusts (REITs), a traditional driver of transactions in these two markets, slowed their investments significantly after several years of domestic domination due to their access to cheaper capital.

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China leapfrogs Japan and Australia to become APAC’s largest commercial real estate investment market

RCA’s Blazkova commented: “Pricing in both Japan and Australia seems sharp by historical comparison causing these two markets to slow considerably.

A heavy weight of capital continues to search for opportunities, with a strong focus on the safest and largest markets and a buy-and-hold attitude. This combination has created a highly competitive environment for the best assets.”

Barring Japan and Australia, a number of key markets in the region continued to do well.

One such bright spot was South Korea, where investment volumes in the country rose 15% YoY to US$12.0 billion (KRW 13.7 trillion), driven by healthy domestic and foreign demand.

Last year was also the second strongest year for cross-border investment in South Korea recorded by RCA, with the most notable deal being the purchase of Seoul IFC by Brookfield Asset Management in a joint venture with China Investment Corporation (CIC) for US$2.2 billion (KRW 2.5 trillion).

Singapore also had a strong showing in 2016, posting a 38% year-on-year increase in investment volumes last year to US$8.0 billion (SGD 11.0 billion).

This was mainly due to the US$2.6 billion (SGD 3.4 billion) sale of Asia Square Tower 1.

The transaction boosted confidence, as investors returned to the market in the fourth quarter of 2016 in anticipation of rental growth and rising property values.

Blazkova from RCA said: “There has been much talk about investors turning to smaller markets in Asia Pacific as a source of value-for-money opportunities.

Our analysis suggests, however, that for so-called frontier markets like the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, there is still a stand-off in pricing expectations that is preventing investment from really taking off.”

The Asia Pacific Capital Trends report also revealed:

  • The largest single transaction in 2016 was the US$3.0 billion (RMB 20.0 billion) purchase of Shanghai Century Link in China by ARA Asset Management. 

  • A new peak was reached in terms of the number of megadeals (over US$1.0 billion) done in Asia Pacific last year at 51, with the continued deployment and abundance of capital. 

  • In terms of market activity by cities, Seoul was the biggest surprise of 2016, having jumped from 10th position in 2015 to 4th last year on record high investment activity, especially in the office and hotel sectors.
China Real Estate Market

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