Odd things about 2021’s largest property sale: $177m deal has curious twist

New Zealand’s largest commercial property transaction of last year has a few curious twists.

It’s not every day that a $177 million sale occurs, but when it happened last year, Colliers’ Chris Dibble put it at the top of his list of the most expensive of 2021.

But there’s something a little odd about it: the vendor never said who the buyer was and nor did the agents who sold it announce their big win.

That’s despite the vendor being the NZX-listed Precinct Properties New Zealand which sold half the ANZ Centre, 23-29 Albert St and the agents being at the prominent CBRE.

It said it sold that office real estate but never cited any buyer’s name.

The Herald reported the sale early last year but also reported that Precinct chief executive Scott Pritchard wouldn’t say who the buyer was. That could well have been due to confidentiality arrangements but nothing was forthcoming

The genesis of the transaction dates way back before last year.

In 2018, Precinct said it would sell half of the building for $181m to giant American business Invesco. Precinct has a policy of selling older buildings and recycling capital.

That capital recycling initiative would see proceeds from the sale used to repay bank debt and reduce leverage, it said.

Three years later, on February 9, Precinct first told the market it had struck the deal to sell the remaining half of the tower and some people might have thought the logical buyer would be Invesco which already owned half.

Not so, but more on that later.

In an announcement titled ANZ Centre sale, it said then: “Precinct has entered into an agreement for the sale of its 50 per cent interest in the ANZ Centre in Auckland for $177 million. The sale price is consistent with the June 30, 2020 independent valuation.”

The Singaporean Government was never mentioned. Nor was Reco Augustine Private, 100 per cent Singaporean and ultimately owned by a sovereign wealth fund established by the Singaporean Government.

No one was mentioned.

Precinct said zilch about the buyer’s identity and it stayed that way all year.

The Overseas Investment Office did, however, reveal details.

On March 22, it approved Reco Augustine Private’s application to buy an equal and undivided half share in the office tower. Precinct was listed there as 17.3 per cent owned by United Arab Emirates’ interests, 4.9 per cent by Americans, 2.9 per cent by Australians, 25.2 per cent by various foreign parties and 49.7 per cent New Zealand.

“The applicant has satisfied the OIO that the individuals who will control the investment have the relevant business experience and acumen and are of good character. The applicant has also demonstrated financial commitment to the investment,” the OIO said.

The Minister of Finance determined that the sale was not contrary to New Zealand’s national interest.

Last month the name was also published in a Herald feature when a list of the top 15 commercial, retail and industrial sales was compiled by Dibble and published by the Herald.

Precinct had said a little more last year about the deal on April 15: “Following the announcement made on February 9, Precinct is pleased to announce that the conditions of sale for the remaining 50 per cent interest in the ANZ Centre have now been satisfied and accordingly the agreement is now unconditional.”

In September, CBRE New Zealand said it had won the real estate agency team of the year title at the annual New Zealand RICS award. It named that ANZ deal as one of the reasons.

Its capital markets team won despite the hard year, Covid-19, border closures which meant sales campaigns were paused or cancelled and agents being unable to leave the country.

“Despite these challenges, the team did $1.63b in sales, broke the record twice for New Zealand’s largest single asset industrial sale, set the benchmark twice for single asset office sales in Christchurch and set a new benchmark for single asset office sales in Wellington,” the agency said.

Key projects headlined in the awards submission included the sales of Terrace Downs Golf Resort, 20 Customhouse Quay and the sale of half the ANZ Centre.

Andrew Stringer, senior managing director in New Zealand, said, “It was a challenging year all round, but the team pulled together and used their professional expertise to attract the widest pool of potential buyers and delivered exceptional results.”

Stringer said today the sale was by CBRE’s Brent McGregor and Matt St Amand.

McGregor, the agency’s New Zealand executive chairman said today: “Precinct appointed CBRE to sell their 50 per cent interest in the ANZ Centre.We ran an international expression of interest process involving CBRE capital markets staff from here, Singapore and Australia.

“The border restrictions presented some difficulties but with the use of video technology and with international brokers on our team who have loads of New Zealand experience, we achieved some good global participation.

“We had around a dozen groups undertaking some due diligence and received five bids including from private, listed and sovereign wealth investors.Three bids were from locals,” McGregor said.

The Singaporean Government’s owns 49 per cent of Westfield Albany, Westfield Manukau, Westfield Newmarket, Westfield Riccarton and Westfield St Lukes.

In 2014, the Singaporean Government Investment Corporation (GIC) said it had bought the properties with Scentre, the largest shopping centre operator in New Zealand.

GIC’s partnership with Scentre includes the joint ownership of Westfield Parramatta and Westfield Whitford City located in Australia.

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