London’s Gherkin sold to Brazilian billionaire for $1.2bn

The feverish activity in London’s office market continued this week when Joseph Safra, a Brazilian billionaire, bought 30 St Mary’s Axe in the City of London for $1.2bn. 

Safra group will purchase the property, which is better known as the Gherkin, from the receivers of its previous owners, private equity firm Evans Randall and German property investor IVG Immobilien. The two bought the building from Swiss Re, its main tenant, for $950m in 2007. The sale was carried out with the help of a complex loan denominated in Swiss francs, and the companies ran into problems when that currency appreciated by 60%. 

The purchase comes a week after Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund beat two Chinese insurance firms to HSBC’s Docklands headquarters, and made a rejected bid for Songbird, the company that owns most of Canary Wharf. 

Safra Group said: "The acquisition is consistent with our real estate strategy of investing in properties that are truly special – at the best locations within great cities. Although only 10 years old, this building is already a London icon that is distinguished from others in the market, with excellent value growth potential.  

"We intend to make the building even better and more desirable through active ownership that will lead to a range of enhancements that will benefit tenants." 

The 180m high tower was designed by Foster + Partners, built by Skanska, and is the sixth tallest building in London. It was completed in 2004 and contains 50,000 square metres of office space. 

Safra is Brazil’s second richest man with net wealth of $15.9bn.

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