The real estate investment arm of U.S. bank Morgan Stanley (MS.N) aims to sell a Shanghai office building for around 2.5 billion yuan ($366 million) to a Hong-Kong-listed developer, sources said on Tuesday.
Morgan Stanley Real Estate (MSRE) is in advanced talks with developer SOHO China (0410.HK) for the sale of The Exchange, a building on Shanghai's historic Nan Jing Road, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The deal would be SOHO's first property investment in Shanghai, China's financial hub, as the developer has focused mainly on the capital, Beijing.
Morgan Stanley hopes to cash out while SOHO is keen to expand into Shanghai so this is almost a perfect time for both, said one source.
But the only problem is of course the price, said the source, adding some market watchers valued the property widely between 2 billion yuan and 3 billion yuan due to uncertainties on its business prospects.
MSRE aims to close the deal before the end of this year, said the sources who declined to be identified before an official announcement is made.
No agreement has been signed yet and some other investors have also shown interest in the property but SOHO China, run by influential Chinese property tycoon Pan Shiyi, is the frontrunner, the sources said.
MSRE bought Dong Hai Square for roughly 2 billion yuan in 2006 and later renamed the building The Exchange.
Morgan Stanley declined to comment. A representative for SOHO China could not be immediately reached for comment.
Morgan Stanley began making property investments in Shanghai in 2003 and undertook real estate projects with local partners including Forte (2337.HK) and Shanghai Dragon, an investment arm of the city government.
Early this year, Morgan Stanley was close to raising $6 billion for a new global property fund, in which China Investment Corp, the country's $200 billion sovereign fund, committed $800 million, Reuters reported.
Expansion into China by international companies over the last decade has pushed up office rents in top cities such as Shanghai and Beijing but the global financial crisis has forced some firms to shut down offices.
The prospect of office leasing market in China is not very positive due partly to uncertainties in the global economy, while residential properties are apparently more attractive now, said another of the sources.
The Shanghai benchmark stock index .SSEC has gained over 80 percent this year, helping local investors shift focus to property.
Institutional investors such as MSRE and Blackstone Group (BX.N) often hold property projects for three to five years and cash out at high premiums.