S.Korean sovereign fund makes London property debut

LONDON Mon Jan 9, 2012 4:19pm GMT

LONDON Jan 9 (Reuters) - Korea Investment Corporation, South Korea's sovereign wealth fund, bought an office block opposite the Bank of England for about 75 million pounds ($116 million), its first foray into the perceived safe haven of the London property market.

In a deal completed days before Christmas, KIC bought the 80,000 square feet block at 1 Bartholomew Lane, in which it occupies the top floor, in a deal that will see U.S. developer Hines act as the asset manager, a source told Reuters.

The building, currently about one-third let, is also occupied by Agricultural Bank of China and China's Bank of Communications.

Interest from Far Eastern investors in London property has boomed in the past few years due to the need to diversify burgeoning wealth reserves beyond their own relatively small domestic markets.

Asian investors bought 1.85 billion pounds worth of British property last year, a 24 percent rise on 2010, data from property research group Real Capital Analytics showed.

"Investors like safe havens in liquid markets with strong fiscal regimes hence the attraction of London for deals like this," said Ciaran Burns, a director at real estate investor Ardstone Capital, which sold the building.

Burns declined to confirm the identity of the buyer.

KIC was not immediately available to comment. ($1 = 0.6490 pound) (Reporting by Tom Bill. Editing by Chris Wickham and Jane Merriman)

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