London’s ‘Cheesegrater’was sold by Oxford Properties and British Land in March © Getty
Oxford Properties, the real estate arm of a $72bn Canadian pension fund, is expanding into Asia as it cools on UK office space following the vote to leave the European Union.
The investor, which was involved in a record-breaking global property deal earlier this year when it sold its stake in London’s “Cheesegrater” skyscraper, said it would open an office in Singapore in January.
Paul Brundage, Oxford Property’s senior managing director in Europe, said the fund, which currently holds real estate in Canada, the UK, the US and Europe, wanted to spread its assets more widely.
“We’re not going to short UK plc, but we’ll probably invest less as a proportion of the business compared to a few years ago,” said Mr Brundage, adding that the Singaporean hub would provide a way to “figure out the region”.
Mr Brundage said the UK’s vote to leave the European Union would cause the movement of some banking jobs to mainland Europe.
He added that the London office-leasing market had been “quiet” since the Brexit vote — although Oxford has successfully pre-let half of a new office development in Holborn — The Post Building — to management consultancy McKinsey & Co.
The group has another office building currently under construction at London Wall Place. Mr Brundage said this was also 50 per cent pre-let.
Oxford sold London’s “Cheesegrater” skyscraper — which it owned jointly with UK company British Land — to Hong-Kong listed CC Land for just over £1bn in March.
Over the past 12 months, it has also sold a 50 per cent stake in a collection of office properties in Paternoster Square to US private equity house Madison Realty for £200m, and has sold Green Park — a business park in Reading — for £560m to Mapletree, the Singaporean fund.
It is also buying assets, however — it struck a large deal as it pushed into the German market this year, snapping up Berlin’s Sony Centre for close to €1.1bn in partnership with Madison Realty.
Although Oxford said it would not begin further UK office developments at present, the Canadian fund is planning new investments in the UK’s residential sector, with the build-to-rent sector an area of focus. “We spend a lot of time thinking about residential in the UK,” said Mr Brundage.
Build-to-rent, which advocates hope will professionalise the private rented sector in the UK, has received backing from several other major investors, including Legal and General Investment Management and M&G Investments.
The UK government has also displayed an interest in the sector, and has invested directly through a listed fund.
Oxford Properties, which is a division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, has offices across Canada, as well as in London, Luxembourg, Washington DC and New York.