There are media reports of established investors from Hong Kong and the U.S. making first-round bids for the Bentall Centre, the four-tower office and retail complex in Downtown Vancouver.
Gerry Kahrmann / Vancouver Sun
The ownership of the Bentall Centre in Downtown Vancouver has been in limbo since Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group was taken over by the Chinese government, which said it will off-load some US$10 billion of the company’s assets after overspending led to high debt, allegations of corruption and the jailing of its former chairman.Talk in recent months of commercial realtor CBRE Ltd. seeking potential buyers for the Bentall Centre, which is the most notable commercial property currently for sale in Canada, has coincided with an increasingly tense bilateral relationship with China.Now, there are media reports of established investors from Hong Kong and the U.S. making first-round bids for the four-tower office and retail complex. They include Hong Kong-based CK Asset Holdings Ltd., which is partly owned by tycoon Li Ka-shing, and New York-based private equity firm the Blackstone Group.CK Asset was previously known as Cheung Kong Property Holdings Ltd. and came into being in 2015 when Li restructured his CK Hutchison Group, a conglomerate with operations around the world.Last March, Li retired and named his son, Victor Li, chairman of these businesses and heir to his business empire. The younger Li lived and worked in Vancouver in the late 1980s and ’90s, developing the Expo 86 site. The Li family was once the largest individual investor in the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and has a controlling stake in Husky Energy.Blackstone has done real estate business with Anbang in the past. It was Blackstone that sold the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York to Anbang in 2014 for almost US$2 billion. It also sold Strategic Hotels and Resorts, which includes a chain of luxury hotels in the U.S., to Anbang in 2016 for US$5.5 billion.When Anbang bought Bentall for more than $1.06 billion in 2016, it wasn’t only the most expensive commercial real estate deal in Vancouver, it was also flagged for having seemingly skirted federal rules for sizable investments by foreign companies, including the identifying of beneficial owners. In 2017, Ottawa also approved Anbang’s $1-billion purchase of Vancouver-based Retirement Concepts, B.C.’s largest chain of senior-care homes, which is made up of 21 properties.There are no signs of Retirement Concepts being on the block. Staff continue to work from Anbang’s local office in Vancouver on a top floor of Four Bentall Centre.Vancouver-based CBRE Ltd. vice-chairman Jim Szabo, who was involved with the 2016 sale of the Bentall Centre and also, later, the Fairmont Hotel at YVR to Anbang-related companies, declined to comment.The first signs of any potential sale would come if major tenants in the Bentall towers started receiving estoppel certificates that are issued so a buyer can verify details such as future cash flow, lease terms and any outstanding claims before finalizing a firstname.lastname@example.orgCLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email email@example.com.