Hines completes $447m London 'Frisbee' property deal
LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. developer Hines and the private banking arm of HSBC have bought a London office block that was once central to a divorce case involving the heiress to the Frisbee toy fortune for about 285 million pounds ($447 million), two sources close to the deal told Reuters.
Hines and HSBC will buy the first two phases of the Broadgate West development in London's financial district from owner Peter Marano, HSBC said in statement on Friday without disclosing the price.
"The acquisition of Broadgate West in joint venture with Hines fits our strategy of investing in high-quality office buildings with credit-worthy tenants alongside strong local asset management partners," said Paul Forshaw, head of real estate fund management at HSBC Alternative Investments.
Hines is expanding its property empire in London in a bet on the city's resilience as a global financial centre despite the economic downturn. The deal is also one of many large office block sales in recent months as overseas investors seek the safe haven of central London real estate to protect their wealth.
The deal followed months of intermittent talks between Marano and Hines about the site.
At one stage Canadian office developer Brookfield stepped in after negotiations between the two broke down, before pulling out of talks in November.
U.S. insurer Metlife will provide debt financing of between 50 and 60 percent, one of the sources told Reuters, which revealed Hines had rekindled talks in February.
Hines has more than 1.2 billion pounds worth of projects in the UK, including the Cannon Place office block above the Cannon Street train station in the financial district. It also completed a joint deal with the South Korean sovereign wealth fund for an office block near the Bank of England in December.
Marano, a former leasing director for London's Canary Wharf financial district, separated from his former wife Elena Bowes in 2007. She is the daughter of John Bowes, who sold the company that produced toys including the Frisbee and the Hula Hoop to Mattel for a reported 210 million pounds in 1994.
At the time of their separation in 2007, Marano had equity in his London properties valued at a reported 88 million pounds. By the time the divorce was finalized two years later the market had collapsed due to the financial crisis and the judge ordered Elena Bowes to pay Marano five million pounds to cover his negative equity as part of an equal split.
($1=0.6370 British pounds)
(Reporting by Tom Bill; Editing by Roger Atwood)
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