An Asian business has splashed out $93 million on three New Zealand properties in the past few weeks, taking its total stake here to more than $200 million.
Colwall Property Investment of 120 Albert St in Auckland has just completed the three largest property deals this year, paying $50 million for Wellington's InterContinental and $43 million for two big Rotorua hotels.
Alison Laity of Colwall said yesterday the Hong Kong business with offices here had an appetite for New Zealand assets but had been constrained.
"Our plan has always been to expand in New Zealand and up until now, we have not had an opportunity to do so.
"We are absolutely delighted with the InterContinental because it is an iconic property," she said.
Columna Capital Holdings, a sister company of Colwall, bought the InterContinental.
Dean Humphries, Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels' executive vice-president, negotiated the InterContinental's sale with senior vice-president Ross Beardsell.
Humphries said $50 million was the top price for any commercial property this year and the property's vendor was Sydney's Eureka Funds Management.
Colwall also owns Auckland's Crowne Plaza Hotel in Albert St and the Atrium on Elliott below, with shops fronting Elliott St behind Smith & Caughey's as well as offices and carparks.
Laity said the value of the holdings in New Zealand was more than $200 million.
Humphries said a global campaign to sell the InterContinental drew 50 inquiries.
Prince William stayed at the hotel which bills itself as five-star, although Christchurch-based hotel expert Graham Wilkinson said the property needed a major refurbishment to bring it up to a true five-star standard.
The Rotorua Novotel and Ibis hotels were sold for $43 million last month, and although the buyer was not disclosed at the time, Laity confirmed yesterday it was Colwall.
The Rotorua hotel vendor was Australia's Tourism Asset Holdings in that deal brokered by CB Richard Ellis, whose New Zealand director Warren Hutt said the buyer was not being revealed but was a New Zealand-based group with substantial interests in Auckland.
The neighbouring hotels in Tutanekai St overlook Lake Rotorua and share a number of services.
They have 344 rooms and are managed by French-headquartered Accor, the world's biggest hotel and tourism group.
Companies Office records show the directors of Colwall Property Investment are Tuen Yee Huang of Hong Kong and Le Soen Jap of Auckland.
This month the Australian reported Eureka negotiating with Indonesian businessman Sunardi Loekman to buy the InterContinental.
For some years, Colwall owned Auckland's vacant Royal International Hotel site, which has three street frontages beside its Crowne Plaza but in 2007 sold the former hotel site to Korea's Dae Ju for $24.5 million.
A 1000-unit apartment skyscraper was planned for the Elliott/Victoria/Albert St block but never built.
Zoltan Moricz, senior director of CB Richard Ellis Research and Consulting, said 29 Auckland commercial properties were sold for $280 million in the first half of this year, well down on the 49 sales worth $921 million for the second half of last year.
Nationally, 39 big property deals worth $478 million were completed in the first half of this year, he said.
The $60 million deal for the South Canterbury Finance-owned Hyatt Regency to be sold to Auckland's CP Group was done just before Christmas.
Craig Collins, chief executive of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels for Australasia, said New Zealand had faced challenging events in the past 12 months.
The InterContinental was the 13th big hotel asset that his company had sold this year and 2782 rooms worth about $600 million had changed hands.
"We also have another five major hotels in due diligence, which represents a very strong year for hotel investment across the Australasia region," Collins said.
Humphries is also heading the campaign to sell Auckland's Hilton on Princes Wharf.
Colwall Property investment has paid $93m for:
* InterContinental, Wellington, 232 rooms
* Novotel, Rotorua, 199 rooms
* Ibis, Rotorua, 145 rooms
* Crowne Plaza Hotel, Auckland
* Atrium on Elliott, Auckland.