Commercial Magazine

International Investments: Singapore

By Neil Pierson

With about 6 million citizens, the east Asian city-state of Singapore doesn’t even crack the top 50 among the world’s largest cities. But it happens to be the third most-densely populated nation in the world at 47,000 people per square mile. And even though Singapore has been an independent country for less than 60 years, it ranks No. 3 among the world’s wealthiest nations on a per-capita basis.

Singaporean investors are important players in the global economy. With a total outlay of more than $1.75 trillion, the nation has the world’s sixth-largest state-owned investment system (which includes central banks, sovereign wealth funds and public pension funds).

Worries about a global recession, however, appear to be prompting a recent pullback in certain sectors. For instance, among the top 25 countries for capital placed into U.S. commercial real estate, Singapore had the largest drop-off in dollar volume from 2021 to 2022. Singaporean investors purchased 80 properties last year for a total volume of nearly $1.8 billion, but that was 89% below the level they posted a year earlier, according to MSCI Real Assets.

The attrition can be tied in large part to the disappearance of Mapletree Investments, which holds some $77 billion in global real estate assets. Mapletree and one of its subsidiaries placed more than $5 billion into U.S. properties in 2021, but neither entity was listed on MSCI’s 2022 ranking of the top cross-border buyers.

The bulk of recent business from Singapore to America has been done by GIC, a global investor with diversified stakes in bonds, equities and real estate. GIC was the fourth-largest cross-border buyer of U.S. properties last year, MSCI reported.

In August 2022, GIC partnered with Florida-based Workspace Property Trust to acquire a majority stake in 53 suburban office buildings — many of them in the Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco metro areas. The deal was valued at $1.1 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported that “Workforce and GIC are betting that demand will rise for higher-end, modern suburban offices in good locations as more companies seek out areas closer to where their employees live.”

GIC made headlines again in February 2023 when it joined with Oak Street in a $15 billion purchase of STORE Capital Corp., an Arizona-based real estate investment trust that specializes in single-tenant net-lease properties. The REIT reportedly owns about 3,000 assets across the U.S. and might be best known for its relationship with Warren Buffett, who purchased 10% of its stock in 2017. This past June, GIC continued its spree in the REIT space with an $868 million joint-venture acquisition of Indus Realty Trust. GIC and Centerbridge Partners took control of 44 industrial buildings in East Coast states.

A newly emerging participant from Singapore is GLP Capital Partners, which has some $125 billion in global assets under management. Earlier this year, it announced two separate acquisitions of Class A industrial properties in California’s Inland Empire. Late last year, GLP also finalized a $1.5 billion value-add opportunity fund for self-storage facilities. The fund’s largest transaction to date occurred in August 2022 when it nabbed 11 properties in California, Oregon and Texas.

Another Singaporean funding source, CapitaLand, owns 79 U.S. properties in markets such as Chicago, Kansas City and Raleigh. Its industrial REIT affiliate announced a $40 million deal last year to convert a San Diego office property into life-sciences space for Crinetics Pharmaceuticals. ●


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