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Biggest property deal of year pending

By Chris Hutching

Friday 17th October 2003

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The largest commercial property deal of the year was in the throes of being finalised this week but Colliers International sales director John Goddard was keeping mum about the details.

Multiplex Construction is making its debut into commercial property ownership with the $100 million purchase of the 31-level ASB Bank Centre at 135 Albert St in Auckland.

That is seen as part of its preparation for an $A2 billion public float later in December offering units in a commercial and retail property trust and shares in the construction and development arm of the group. A prospectus is due out later this month.

Multiplex is understood to be attracted by the positive capital and rental returns being recorded in the Auckland commercial property sector.

The ASB Bank Centre was completed for ASB in 1991 at a cost of $150 million and half of it was sold in the mid-1990s to unlisted AMP Property Portfolio.

A couple of months ago the listed AMP NZ Office Trust carried out due diligence on the building, which it was conside ring buying for $112 million.

But it pulled out of the deal and the 33,442sq m building was marketed overseas in a portfolio of New Zealand property put together by Colliers. The floor plates of 1200sq m are among the largest of any available in Auckland.

At $100 million, the deal represents an initial yield on sale of about 8.7% ­ considerably higher than comparable commercial properties in Australia where yields are more commonly around 5% to 6%. Nor is there any capital gains tax in this country.

Australian investment funds and overseas buyers have acquired about $800 million worth of New Zealand property over the past couple of years including MCS Property buying two shopping centres for $50 million in May, Macquarie Countrywide Trust buying 16 shopping centres and ING buying several retail and industrial properties.

The next big deal that may be concluded by Colliers is the sale of AMTrust's 22-building portfolio, mostly in Auckland, which is expected to fetch about $300 million. Bids closed last Friday.

The Australian property funds are fuelled by money from Australia's compulsory superannuation contrib-
utions, taken at a rate of 9% from employees' wages and salaries.

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