Who’s buying Australia’s commercial property?

25th Jan 2016
Adrian Ballantyne

If you thought the Chinese were the only foreign investors snapping up significant chunks of Australia’s commercial property, think again.

China was the biggest overseas buyer of Australian commercial real estate in 2015, as a groundswell of interest saw foreign investors pick off $11.18 billion of the more than $29 billion sold nationally over the last 12 months.

The sales boom represented a 58% increase on the $7.05 billion that non-Australian buyers spent here in 2014, according to Savills research.

In vogue: Sydney, Melbourne lead pack for Asia-Pacific demand

But while much has been made of the growing Chinese demand for Australia’s commercial buildings, it was two other big-spending countries that loomed as dominant forces in the local market in 2015.

Singapore threatened to trump China for top spot after Ascendas paid more than $1 billion for the GIC and Frasers Property Australia logistics portfolio – the second largest industrial property deal in Australian history.

Singapore's Mapletree paid $59 million for this West Perth office building.

Singapore’s Mapletree paid $59 million for this West Perth office building.

The Ascendas result was also bolstered by a string of other deals that saw the tiny island nation account for 29% of all foreign investment in Australia, with $3.28 billion worth of purchases compared to China’s $3.34 billion.

Among the property to end up in Singaporean hands was a West Perth office building that was bought by real estate funds giant Mapletree for $59 million.

For all of these investors Australia remains an investment destination of choice

And in a transaction that set tongues wagging in Melbourne’s hospitality industry, three properties that house restaurants leased to Masterchef star George Calombaris were sold to Singaporean investor Keppel REIT Management Limited.

Savills’ data reveals the United States also figured prominently in the Australian market last year and bought up $3.19 billion worth of commercial real estate as the Australian dollar continued to slide.

Calombaris' restaurants lie at the foot of the Herald and Weekly Times building

Masterchef’s George Calombaris leases properties within this Melbourne building, sold to a Singapore investor.

Savills national head of research Tony Crabb says further strong interest from Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan helped Asia account for $7.4 billion worth of investment in Australia’s commercial market, while managing director of cross-border investments Paul Craig says he expects similar interest in the local market throughout 2016.

“We expect 2016 to see a continuation of money flowing into Australia and particularly from China and Singapore but also the USA, with the low dollar and interest rates key drivers,” Craig says.

“We certainly don’t see any slowdown in investment from China in particular in the short term.”

“For all of these investors Australia remains an investment destination of choice. Its stable political and economic climate provides a safe haven that also offers an excellent exchange rate and low interest rates.”