Hong Kong’s Crane Capital Buys Out Singapore Shophouse Specialist 8M 

Hong Kong’s Crane Capital Buys Out Singapore Shophouse Specialist 8M 

Crane Capital

Crane Capital CEO and managing partner Wai Tang

Washington State Investment Board-controlled Crane Capital has taken full ownership of Singapore property investor and manager 8M Real Estate, which specialises in shophouse investments in the Southeast Asian financial hub.

After accumulating S$1.4 billion ($1.02 billion) worth of the traditional low-rise buildings in less than a decade, Ashish Manchharam, who founded 8M and served as its chief executive, has sold his remaining shares in the firm to Hong Kong-based Crane for an undisclosed sum and left his roles with the firm, Manchharam and 8M said in a joint statement on Thursday, confirming an earlier report by the Business Times.

Crane has been 8M’s capital partner for an extended period, with the takeover having been concluded on 30 September. 8M is now managed by the company’s existing team, together with Crane Capital, now that its portfolio has been “largely stabilized and well-positioned for diversification and growth.”

“Very grateful to have been able to transform a vision over the past decade of reimagining shophouses in Singapore of bringing life to neighbourhoods,” Manchharam said in a social media post. It’s been a tremendous journey which could only have been done with a great team, partners and community,”

Conservation Specialist

The sale gives Crane Capital full ownership of 8M and its portfolio of over 70 commercial assets – primarily shophouses – spanning 344,000 square feet (31,960 square metres). The assets are concentrated in the historic districts of Boat Quay, Chinatown and Little India where broad swathes of the low-rise heritage properties have been conserved under local regulations.

Ashish Mancharam 8M

Ashish Manchharam founded 8M in 2014

More than half of 8M’s portfolio consists of office space, while 47 percent is dedicated to retail and food and beverage, based on the company’s website. The firm also has a five-asset portfolio of boutique hotels and apartments.

While awaiting the appointment of a new chief executive, 8M is being managed by its two incumbent managing directors, Darren Sabom, who joined in 2020 from SC Capital Partners, and Viola Chee, who worked at SilkRoad Property Partners before jumping to 8M in 2019.

Established by the WSIB in 2019, Crane has $1.9 billion in equity under management across eight Asian cities, according to its website.

In 2020 the WSIB said it was investing $700 million in the company, which works exclusively for the US entity. In 2022 the state pension manager said it had invested another $500 million in a Crane-managed fund. The Crane Capital website features images of the Kesa House hotel in Singapore and other properties from the 8M portfolio.

Onward to New Ventures

Manchharam is bowing out nine years after establishing 8M in 2014 straight from 12 years at property consultancy JLL where he had served as head of investments for Southeast Asia.

The veteran investor and entrepreneur said his “passion about real estate and in building companies” will remain as he embarks on the next chapter of his career.

28-Stanley-Street 2

8M Real Estate added 28 Stanley Street to its portfolio in April. (Image: JLL)

“Spotting niche trends and re-adapting property will continue to be my focus as I consider opportunities to build on my interest in lifestyle-led real estate businesses,” he said.

Crane Capital has not yet commented on the buyout and company representatives had not responded to inquiries from Mingtiandi by the time of publication.

Downturn Resistant

The buyout comes nearly six months after 8M acquired a 6,485 square foot shophouse at 28 Stanley Street in the Telok Ayer area in April for a reported S$29 million, or around S$4,472 per square foot. That property is now undergoing renovation and is slated to open in the first quarter of next year.

With Singapore having raised taxes on purchases of residential properties for many investors in April of this year, sales of shophouses rose 7.2 percent in the first half of 2023, compared to the same period a year ago, according to Knight Frank. This came even as overall transactions of income-earning properties in the city fell by 21 percent in the same period, according to MSCI.

In the second half of this year, a row of conserved shophouses at 2 to 7 Circular Road in Boat Quay was reportedly purchased by a company controlled by the family of Lim Kaling, an early investor in gaming firm Razer for S$80 million during July.

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