Beachfront Resorts, Landmark Hotels Draw S. Korean Investors

  • Investment firms eye marquee names in the U.S., Hawaii
  • With low yields locally, firms see better returns overseas

South Korean firms, led by one of Asia’s largest asset managers, are investing in hotels and office buildings abroad as low interest rates locally are driving them to seek better returns overseas.

Their targets are hotels and buildings with marquee names in popular tourist destinations such as Hawaii and San Francisco, where some South Korean firms are paying record prices.

Mirae Asset Global Investments Co. is acquiring the leasehold on the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu for $780 million, a person with knowledge of the pending transaction said Thursday.

The resort, with its landmark twin towers, would be the biggest single-property hotel transaction ever in Hawaii, according to research firm Real Capital Analytics Inc. It would mark Mirae’s second large hotel acquisition on the island chain in a year. The Seoul-based firm acquired the Fairmont Orchid hotel on Hawaii’s Big Island for $220 million in May 2015. Several months later, Mirae acquired the Fairmont San Francisco hotel, a landmark in the city, for $450 million.

Six percent annually

Mirae declined to comment on the Waikiki hotel deal. But a Mirae official, who didn’t want to be named because of company policy, said low interest rates have made investment in overseas real estate more promising.

Mirae has spent 4.94 trillion won ($4.3 billion) investing in overseas properties since 2006, the official said. Landmark hotels investments have annual dividend yields of about 6 percent, he said.

The firm has invested in seven hotels since it acquired Sydney’s Four Seasons Hotel for 340 million Australian dollars in 2013, according to the Korea Times. The Waikiki hotel deal will be its largest.

Read how Blackstone could make over $200 million profit from Hawaii deal

South Korea’s family-run chaebols have also been on a spending spree. Hotel Lotte Co., which has filed for the country’s biggest public offering ever, acquired The New York Palace hotel for $850 million last year. Korean Air Lines Co. is building a hotel and office complex in Los Angeles at a cost of $1.1 billion.

Even institutional investors are getting in on the action. South Korea’s Teachers Pension underwrote $77 million in mezzanine debt to fund investors’ purchase of the marquee Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco. A group of Korean insurance companies is investing about $220 million in a mezzanine loan for the 54-story AXA Equitable Center at 787 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE