Asian investments in BC “just the beginning”

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015


Last March, China-born Owen Wang, a recent immigrant to Canada, purchased the 18-hole Sechelt Golf & Country Club and said he plans to sink $20 million into improvements, including the construction of a hotel on the site.

Investors from mainland China have also purchased a marine resort at Garden Bay on the Sunshine Coast, a 43-acre island off the coast of Pender Harbour and even the Gibson’s movie theatre. A Chinese group is also eyeing a multifamily development site in Gibsons.

Chinese offshore investors were behind the purchase of an Okanagan lakeside resort last summer and an equestrian centre in Langley and are backing a $50 million hotel project in Nanaimo and a ghost town near Whistler.

In Vancouver, the 120-room Best Western Sands Hotel at 1755 Davie Street, was recently sold for $30.3 million to a numbered company backed by Asian capital. According to study by hotel consultant HVS International, investors from China also purchased the Days Inn in Vancouver and a “good portion” of hotel-condos in the Westin Grand hotel.

In January, a Chinese-born Canadian with homes in Hong Kong and Vancouver bought a 234-acre development site straddling Port Moody and Anmore on the southeast edge of Metro Vancouver through Vancouver-based Brilliant Circle Group (BBG). 

This could be a “groundbreaking year for Chinese outbound investments,” according to Chadbourne & Parke LLP, an international law firm headquartered in New York City. Its 2014 report China Widens Door to Outbound Investment, noted that offshore Chinese investments “other than in the financial sector” reached US$90 billion in 2013 and hit US$20 billion in the first three months of 2014.

“This is just the beginning for Vancouver,” said Tina Mak, president of Asian Real Estate Association of America, Vancouver Chapter, and a realtor with Coldwell Banker Westburn Realty. Mak expects a huge increase in sales of B.C. commercial real estate to buyers from China.

Last April, China’s government relaxed constraints on citizens buying in other countries. Now, deals under $300 million may not even hit regulator’s radar. “China has opened the door to outbound investment more widely than ever,” Chadbourne & Parke commented.

While much of the offshore real estate money flows from China into New York, London, England and Los Angeles – the most popular cities for Asian investors – Vancouver is considered among the top secondary targets.

While Mak said return on investment is the primary aim, followed by “the brag factor”, some immigrant investors are apparently drawn to B.C. as much for the lifestyle. 

The new owner of Sechelt Golf and Country Club, for example, said the profit motive was not the main driver for his investment decision.

Wang said he wanted to purchase the course for three reasons: his love of golf, the quality of life and natural beauty in Sechelt and the possibility of retirement in the area.

“Sechelt is a great place to live,” he said.

The Western Investor

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