The battle for a £3 billion property empire in London's Chinatown just took a new turn

  • Norwegian sovereign wealth fund buys 8.2% stake in property giant Shaftesbury for around £245 million.
  • The fund, which is the world’s largest, now owns over 20% of Shaftesbury – which has a £3 billion property portfolio in London’s Soho and Chinatown districts.
  • Shaftesbury’s biggest shareholder Samuel Tak Lee is believed to be preparing a takeover bid, but the Norwegian fund’s move makes this more difficult.

LONDON – The battle for control of Shaftesbury, the property company with a £3 billion portfolio in London’s Soho and Chinatown districts, took a new turn on Thursday after it was reported that the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund has almost doubled its stake in the business.

Property trade magazine Estates Gazette reported on Thursday morning that Norges Bank Investment Management – the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund – has purchased an 8.2% stake in Shaftesbury from investment firm Invesco for around £245 million.

Norges Bank Investment Management previously held a stake of just under 13% in Shaftesbury, but that figure is now closer to 21%.

The move puts the fund in direct competition with Samuel Tak Lee, the Hong Kong billionaire who is currently Shaftesbury’s biggest shareholder with control of about 25% of the company.

Lee is believed to be preparing a full-scale takeover bid for Shaftesbury. Earlier this month he voted against several resolutions at the company’s AGM that would take power away from large shareholders, a move widely seen as a precursor to a bid.

Lee, 78, owns vast swathes of commercial property in London’s West End through the company Langham Estate.

Norges Bank Investment Management is not believed to be preparing to try and take control of Shaftesbury, and “the purchase of Invesco’s stake by Norges is a sign of shareholder solidarity in the wake of the disruption,” Estates Gazette reports.

The Norwegian fund – which is worth roughly £750 billion – already has a significant footprint in the capital, and owns a 150-year lease on roughly 25% of Regent Street, as well as around £400 million of property on Oxford Street – two of the capitals most recognisable shopping streets.

The fund also owns parts of New Bond Street, and properties on Savile Row, the street famous across the world for its tailors.

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