By Rochelle Broder-Singer | Special to the Miami Herald | 2/2/2009
Some of the biggest commercial real estate deals of 2008 came from outside the United States:
Nakheel Hotels, managed by the Dubai government, bought 50 percent of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel for $375 million. A subsidiary of Japanese investment firm Sumitomo paid $260 million for the Miami Center office tower. Hong Kong-based Swire Properties, which developed most of Brickell Key, paid $41.3 million for 5.5 vacant acres just off Brickell Avenue. And a Mexican company affiliated with the Jose Cuervo Group became partners in 396 Alhambra, a planned $130 million office project in Coral Gables.
As a credit crunch dries up U.S. capital for deals, many in the industry expect international investors to again be major players throughout 2009. They often have the stomach -- and the cash -- to buy now even as vacancies rise and values drop.
''They're not as squeamish as some of the investors in the United States,'' said real estate broker William H. Kerdyk Jr., president and CEO of Kerdyk Real Estate in Coral Gables.
Foreign buyers often work with longer time frames and have more cash than domestic groups. They have clear confidence in South Florida's long-term economic strength. And for some, this country is still the safest place to move flight capital.
Grace He, vice president of China-based U.S. Capital Holdings, agrees. Her company is developing the mixed-use 321 North on the site of the Fashion Mall in Plantation.
A private equity investor, U.S. Capital saw the mixed-use project as an opportunity to transfer its experience in urban development in China to the United States. Even as the economy makes it hesitant about which piece of the project to begin now, the company is patient about its investment. ''The commitment that we're putting here for this project is a long one,'' he said.