Far Eastern REIT (Again) Cleared For Take-Off

After a series of false starts, what stands to become the world’s largest REIT offering should hit the market by the end of this year. Hong Kong’s $3 billion Link REIT — a portfolio of government-owned malls and parking spaces located in the densely packed city — was originally scheduled to float last December.

But a legal challenge stalled the offering and left it in limbo since last winter. The Link REIT owns 151 shopping centers and 79,000 parking spaces.

Last year, American International Group (AIG) invested $573 million, which yielded an 18.8% stake. The REIT's appeal derives from the scarcity of land and abundance of cars in Hong Kong. Link controls 13.7% of the entire inventory of commercial parking spaces in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong property prices are finally rebounding after a six-year slump exacerbated by the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). But the Hong Kong economy is expected to expand by 7.5% for 2004, which would be double the rate in 2003.

Indeed, one central question is whether the Hong Kong Housing Authority will re-value the Link portfolio given the steep appreciation that this market has sustained. One thing that is certain is that the total number of properties and parking space hasn’t changed since December 2004, when the first attempt was made to take the REIT public.

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