Commercial Magazine

International Investments: Switzerland

By Victor Whitman

Like almost all cross-border investors, Swiss companies pulled back significantly from the U.S. commercial real estate market after COVID-19 emerged in March 2020. But Swiss investment companies have been buyers in several multimillion deals this year, particularly in the multifamily-housing sector.

According to Real Capital Analytics (RCA), Switzerland ranked No. 7 among foreign investors in U.S. commercial properties in the 12-month period ending in first-quarter 2021. In 2019 and 2020, Switzerland ranked No. 3 and No. 6, respectively, among global players. 

Swiss companies were at least partial investors in 43 U.S. properties between second- quarter 2020 and first-quarter 2021, RCA reported, with the overall acquisition volume of these deals totaling $1.7 billion. This figure was down 50% compared to the same period one year earlier. That said, however, a number of Swiss investment firms have been big spenders in the U.S. since January 2021. 

The largest of these deals occurred this past June with the $150.3 million purchase of a 315,000-square-foot office portfolio on a 68-acre campus in Warren, New Jersey, via a partnership between Geneva-based asset manager Mirabaud Group and Miami-based EXAN Capital. According to Real Estate NJ, the deal involved a $101 million commercial mortgage from New York Life Real Estate Investors that was arranged by JLL. 

In the first half of 2021, there were two other large portfolio deals involving Swiss investors. In March, Geneva-based Global Gate partnered with Boston investment firm Berkeley Investments on a $98.5 million purchase of five buildings in Lawrence, Massachusetts, located north of Boston along Interstate 93. The main assets were adjacent apartment buildings that overlook the Merrimack River. These buildings formerly served as mills, were built more than a century ago, and now house a total of 372 luxury lofts and apartments. 

In January, the Geneva-based investor Stoneweg purchased three multifamily properties in the Indianapolis metro area for a total of $86.8 million. The properties were built in the 1970s and have a combined 849 units. 

Zurich-based GMF Capital also bought two properties in the first half of this year. In May, the company purchased a newly built, 316-unit apartment complex in West Melbourne, Florida, for $73.3 million. The sale was backed by a $45.7 million loan from Brookfield Financial, according to Multi-Housing News. 

This past April, GMF partnered with U.S.-based Limitless Management to buy a newly renovated, 263-unit apartment property in the Baltimore suburb of Catonsville, Maryland, for $33.9 million. This was an off-market sale arranged without a broker, according to Baltimore Citybizlist, and the property was 96% occupied at the time of acquisition.

UBS, a Swiss multinational investment bank and financial-services company, has been an active buyer and seller in the U.S. According to RCA, UBS was the fifth-most active seller of U.S. commercial real estate during the 12-month period ending this past March as it unloaded 17 properties. 

In March, however, UBS bought an industrial property in Long Beach, California, for $42 million in partnership with California’s Pacific Industrial. The property includes several buildings totaling about 180,000 square feet.●


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