Chinese billionaire settles on Sydney’s Bakehouse Quarter

The Bakehouse Quarter in Sydney.
The Bakehouse Quarter in Sydney.

The property empire linked to billionaire Chinese property developer and political party donor Huang Xiangmo has notched up a win, with the group settling a record-breaking purchase in Sydney’s inner-western suburbs, picking up a site that has the capacity for a $1 billion mixed-use project.

Huang, now an adviser to his Yuhu Group, which is owned by his wife Jiefang and his son Jiquan (known as Jimmy), settled on its long-running $380 million purchase of the Bakehouse Quarter in Sydney’s Strathfield, where it can now work up plans for an overhaul to capitalise on new transport links into the region.

Yuhu, which had paid deposits and fees of about $58 million as it extended options to buy the site until Thursday, first put its foot on the sprawling development at the height of the property boom when Chinese developers were making inroads into Australian cities.

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Huang, who is now thought to be in Hong Kong, has not commented on the purchase, but he has been a fixture in the federal election campaign after his political donations and meetings with senior politicians, including Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, hit the headlines.

Huang was denied entry back into the country by the Morrison government earlier this year after leaving Australia for an offshore trip. His permanent residency visa was cancelled, with security agencies reportedly having concerns about Mr Huang’s links to the Chinese Communist Party.

Despite these woes, The Weekend Australian can reveal that Yuhu is making progress on its troubled $1.4 billion Jewel development at Surfers Paradise, with Hong Kong-based group The Langham Hotels and Resorts now in line to run the hotel component of the project.

The project, which will have towers rising 47, 41 and 34 storeys, has been pitched as a major piece of tourism infrastructure. There will be two residential towers and it will also sport a five-star hotel.

Yuhu, which did not require Foreign Investment Review Board approval for its latest purchase, last year indicated it would spend a further $300 million recasting the Gold Coast project to its standards after deciding the pre-existing fittings, installed under previous owner Dalian Wanda, were not what it had envisioned.

Jewel hit headlines last year when 900 labourers walked off the job in solidarity with more than 100 contractors who were put off after the project was temporarily put on hold.

But the workers returned to the site after intervention from the construction union. Despite the changes and delays, the development, being built by Multiplex, is expected to meet its mid-2019 delivery deadline.

Langham runs luxury properties across Asia, including in Sydney and Melbourne, and insisted that it was yet to sign a deal with Yuhu. The group is known for owning hotels it runs, but the Gold Coast deal would probably see it manage the new five-star hotel that Yuhu would retain.

The pair did not comment on the hotel deal but once it is signed attention is likely to turn to the future of Yuhu’s One Circular Quay project on Sydney Harbour that has been redesigned to meet the slower demand, with the number of super-luxury apartments cut from 190 to 165.

For now, Yuhu is focused on its acquisition of the Bakehouse Quarter from the Kirela Development Unit Trust, which is managed by listed property group BlackWall. The commercial and retail precinct set around the refurbished Arnott’s biscuit factory in North Strathfield spans more than 60,000sqm.

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