Blackstone eyes Singapore property


Group taking advantage of tech firms expanding there

SINGAPORE: Blackstone Group Inc is seeking to invest in more properties in Singapore to capitalise on rising demand for office space among technology firms expanding in the city-state.

The plans come after the United States private equity firm announced that it’s purchasing an eight-story building from Lucas Real Estate called the Sandcrawler for S$176mil (US$132mil or RM543mil), confirming an earlier Bloomberg report.

Blackstone is seeking to make long-term investments in high-quality assets that provide strong returns, Alan Miyasaki, head of Asia real estate acquisitions, said in an interview. That would require having a strong roster of tenants, such as those in the Sandcrawler, which houses the Walt Disney Co and the Government Technology Agency.

The move underscores the attraction of Singapore’s property assets to foreign investors as the financial hub broadens its appeal for technology firms. US giants Amazon.com Inc and Facebook Inc and their Chinese counterparts Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and ByteDance Ltd are among companies that are making the city-state a beachhead for South-East Asia.

The Sandcrawler deal marks Blackstone’s first Singapore property acquisition under its “core plus” strategy, where it currently has US$3.6bil in assets under management in Asia. Located in the city’s largest business park, the building was inspired by the Sandcrawler fortresses in the Star Wars movies, and was used by Lucasfilm.

Technology companies are keen to take up space in low-rise buildings in business parks, and not necessarily skyscrapers in the financial district, Miyasaki said.

He pointed out that Grab Holdings Inc and Sea Ltd’s e-commerce business Shopee have offices in the area where the Sandcrawler is located.

“It used to be that the tall skyscrapers were really cool,” Miyasaki said. “If we can buy five more Sandcrawlers, we’d do that.”

More tech and content companies will expand their presence in Singapore over time, he said, citing the city-state’s ability to protect intellectual property as one reason.

Geopolitical tensions elsewhere also make the tiny nation a relatively attractive option.

Singapore is “the one place everybody agrees on,” Miyasaki said. “This is like the Switzerland of Asia.”

Blackstone has been investing in property elsewhere in Asia as part of its strategy focusing on technology, logistics, content creation and life sciences.

It’s the largest owner of offices in India, with about 50% of its portfolio leased to global technology companies.

In China, the firm announced a deal last year to buy a majority stake in the largest logistics park in the Greater Bay Area, accommodating blue-chip companies across sectors including e-commerce and life sciences. ─ Bloomberg
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