Property editor of the NZ Herald

Aviva looks to extend holdings in NZ property

The Shore City mall in Takapuna.  Photo / Steven McNicholl
The Shore City mall in Takapuna. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Aviva Investors Asia Pacific Property Fund, which has undertaken the largest real estate deal in New Zealand this year, is considering buying more.

Jeremy Chai, Singapore-based deputy fund manager, indicated the $83.5 million purchase of Takapuna mall Shore City from Westfield (New Zealand) might not be the last, and Canterbury earthquakes and foreign investment rules did not deter the business.

"We're looking around at various opportunities, not just Westfield," Chai said. "We can't give any amount but we're looking at more retail and industrial property in New Zealand.

"Our portfolio is concentrated mostly on office assets so we're trying to diversify away from office."

Aviva is the world's fifth-largest life insurer and has £263 billion ($411 billion) in funds under management internationally.

Changes are being planned at Shore City, but Chai said these were more conceptual than concrete.

"We're looking at rebranding it and enhancing and adding value so it's more relevant to the needs of the residents of Takapuna.

"Also, conceptually we'd like to inject some fresh new concepts for the whole of Auckland," he said, referring to bringing in tenants not already trading in New Zealand.

Aviva noted that Takapuna was a destination boutique fashion area in an entertainment hub.

The $83.5 million came out of Aviva's Singapore property from the sale there of Commerce Pt and 1 Philip St.

Chai said Colliers International in Auckland acted as agents on the sale deal and had been appointed to manage the centre while Jones Lang LaSalle was appointed as valuers.

New Zealand had a welcoming approach to foreign investors, "a low barrier to entry" and earthquakes did not deter Aviva.

"We invest in Japan, so as a regional investor we are comfortable with that risk," Chai said.

Extensive due diligence was done before the purchase, he said.

Chris Dibble, Jones Lang LaSalle's associate research director, said foreign investors had poured about $600 million into New Zealand real estate in less than two years.

Aviva's deal topped the $55 million sale of Beca House in Auckland's Vincent St and Wellington's Bowen House near Parliament at $50.4 million, Dibble said.

"This is not only the largest sale so far this year but the largest of a retail shopping centre since Kiwi [Income Property Trust] bought LynnMall for $174 million in December 2010," Dibble said, noting that it was also Aviva's entree in New Zealand property and a sign of confidence by international investors.

"They have obviously identified retail as a high-yielding investment sector with upside potential," Dibble said.

"It is also pleasing to see the confidence in New Zealand's real estate sector from an overseas perspective," he added.

"We are increasingly seeing foreign investors looking to diversify their portfolio with good quality assets in a stable environment.

"In the last 18 months there has been around $600 million foreign investment into commercial property."

Investors were returning to a formula which had worked and real estate had outperformed bonds and shares in the past 15 years.

"Out of the three largest transactions so far this year, two have been by listed property vehicles," Dibble said.

"We expect this to be a rising occurrence as the listed sector shifts their focus back to accretive investment after shoring up their balance sheets."

* Two-level mall with gym on third floor.
* Seven-level parking building connects to mall.
* 830 carparks.
* 14,120sq m net lettable floor area.
* 99 per cent leased, 74 tenants.
Source: Aviva Investors Asia Pacific Property Fund

- NZ Herald

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