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Manulife Real Estate plans US$2B investment to scoop up Asian office properties

Manulife Real Estate plans to expand its reach into the Asian office sector, with upward of US$2 billion in capital projected to be splashed out on such assets in the region, according to a report by The (Singapore) Business Times.

The planned investment would double its existing US$2.2 billion of direct property holdings in Asia for investment purposes, and marks a pivot from its previous strategy of acquiring Asian office space primarily for its own corporate utilization.

The Aug. 10 report noted that the company's new strategy for the region tracks firm expansion in Asian insurance sales, as well as in the wealth and asset management sectors, all while the rental market shrugs off growth in the U.S. The global property unit of Canada's Manulife Financial Corp. has plans to invest in key Asian gateway cities like Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney and Melbourne, targeting prime office space in central business districts over the next two years.

The company launched the investment plan by forking out US$526 million for the purchase of the 28-story 8 Cross Street office building in Singapore in April, which Ted Willcocks, global head of asset management, said was "the start of more acquisitions in Asia."