Asian investors dominant but American and Middle Eastern firms also in market, says agent.

Four big New Zealand hotels have sold for about $170 million.

Dean Humphries of Jones Lang LaSalle said this was one of the most active sectors in Australasian commercial real estate and the value of deals had almost doubled.

"There have been sales for A$1.5 billion [$1.91 billion] in the year to June, a 96 per cent increase over the previous period," he said, with Asian buyers dominant but American and Middle Eastern businesses also active on the scene.

Humphries sold the four New Zealand hotels: Auckland's Hyatt Regency for $59.7 million, Hotel So Christchurch for $19 million, InterContinental Wellington for $50 million and Princes Wharf Hilton Auckland for a sum thought to be about $40 million but unconfirmed and yet to settle.


"The Hilton sale will reflect the highest sale price on a dollar-per-room basis, surpassing the sale of Rendezvous Hotel which we sold in 2006 for $113 million or $248,000/room," he said.

Singapore's M&L is buying that 165-room property after swooping on the Hotel So Christchurch, now rebranded All Seasons Cashel Street, giving it 448 rooms here from a standing start.

Forbes lists M&L's Michael Kum, 67, as Singapore's 26th richest man out of its top 40 and says he invested in hotels after selling a part stake in his Australian-listed Miclyn Express Offshore during its 2007 initial public offering.

It lists his fortune at US$670 million ($825 million).

"Since 2009 he's acquired 11 hotels in Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore.

"In April he scrapped plans to raise A$360 million by listing his M&L Hospitality Trust, after it failed to get commitments from key investors," Forbes said.

But Kum's Christchurch purchase did not go well.

He bought after the first earthquake in September, 2010, when there was minimal damage and the property was trading as the All Seasons Cashel Street when the second big quake struck in February 2011.

It has been shut since then while investigations are carried out.

Humphries, on an 18-month secondment from Auckland to Australia, said Singaporeans were the most active hotel buyers in Australasia.

"Singaporean capital is the most prominent source of investment although [it is] also strong from Hong Kong and Malaysia," he said.

Humphries said the sellers were mainly Australian institutional or domestic private businesses and receiverships had forced some deals.

Purchase finance did not necessarily come from buyers' country of origin.

"Most offshore hotel investors are sourcing debt locally which is great for our banks.

"Many buyers are well-capitalised so have the financial capability to reinvest new capital into these assets by way of refurbishment, expansion and the like," Humphries said.

Ibis Christchurch, with about 50 staff, re-opened this month, after $10 million of earthquake repairs and is one of the first to re-open in the formerly cordoned off area.

Humphries sees Christchurch as offering much action to hotel investors, saying it not only needed new buildings for tourists but also needed a new convention centre.