International briefs

alternate textChina Construction Bank opened a new U.S. office at 1095 Sixth Avenue

China bank opens new offices as part of global expansion push

China Construction Bank Corp., the country’s largest mortgage lender, is undertaking a global expansion plan, which includes new offices in New York and Ho Chi Minh City, and possible outposts in Australia, Latin America and the Middle East, according to MarketWatch. One of China’s so-called Big Four banks, the Beijing-based company has total assets of about $1.27 trillion. The new 14,000-square-foot office in Manhattan is at 1095 Sixth Avenue.

The expansion plans emerge during an inauspicious time for lenders and real estate companies in China. The government’s decision last month to raise the minimum required down payment on second homes caused stock prices in the real estate sector to slip, according to the Associated Press, and may slow speculative buying.

But average home prices are now about 40 percent above 2007 levels, according to the Wall Street Journal, which worries some industry experts that another housing bubble could be developing quickly.

“The scariest thing is that one simply can’t find a reason for soaring prices for many building complexes,” an unnamed industry insider told the Journal.

$462M London skyscraper hits market amid UK market rally

A London skyscraper called Tower 42 hit the market last month in the city’s main financial artery, according to Bloomberg News. The building, the tallest occupied office structure in the city, has an asking price of $462 million and sits on a 2.2-acre site.

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Owners BlackRock Inc. and Hermes Real Estate Investment Management have tapped Jones Lang LaSalle to market the building. The two companies bought the building in 1998 after creating the Tower Limited Partnership. The tower was the site of an Irish Republican Army bombing in 1993, according to Bloomberg, which resulted in $115 million worth of damage.

Although it’s not immediately clear why the owners have chosen to sell the building, their move comes amid steadily improving performance in the UK’s commercial real estate market in recent months. Commercial property values climbed 3.9 percent in the first quarter of the year, according to Reuters, marking the third-largest rise in the UK market seen since the early ’90s.

Belize property prices attract retirees

The latest “it” country for tropical property could be Belize, according to Propertywire, which reported last month that the Central American nation’s decimated property values are making it an appealing option for retirees from the U.S. and Canada seeking inexpensive beachfront property.

Asking prices for homes in some areas of Belize have dropped by as much as 50 percent, according to David Cox, a director with international property investment consulting firm Property Frontiers. “Although local agents claim only a slight fall in Belize real estate prices, the reality is different,” Cox told Propertywire.

Beachfront condos with asking prices of $250,000 are not unheard of, according to the Vancouver Sun, which noted that relaxed residency laws also add to Belize’s appeal among retirees.

Of course, there are some drawbacks for newcomers to Belize. Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced in March that the general sales tax was climbing to 12.5 percent in the coming fiscal year, a 25 percent increase, in order to help deal with rampant poverty.

Compiled by Amy Tennery