Africa Israel Sells NYC Assets for $349M

Africa Israel Investments Ltd., a Yehud, Israel-based company owned by billionaire Lev Leviev that has real estate holdings in Israel, the United States, Russia and other countries, has agreed to sell some of its interests in three New York buildings that it acquired in 2007. The three properties are 23 Wall Street/15 Broad Street, the Clock Tower at Five Madison Avenue and the former New York Times Building. The buyer was an unidentified Asian investment fund. The company sold 23 Wall Street/15 Broad Street in its entirety for $150 million. The Downtown building, long headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Co.–and historically noteworthy as the site of the 1920 Wall Street Bombing–was converted into condominiums earlier this decade. “This asset was recently valued in our 2007 annual results at approximately $140 million,” Ron Maor, senior vice president-business development for Africa Israel, said this morning during the company’s second quarter 2008 conference call. Africa Israel is also selling nearly half–49.9 percent–of its interest in the 267,000-square-foot Clock Tower building for $150 million, which will help finance the planned conversion of the property. The company bought the property in the spring of 2007 for about $200 million. It too has a noteworthy history as the world’s tallest building for a few years before World War I. “We intent to convert it into 55 luxurious apartments,” noted Maor, who added that marketing on the apartment will begin before the end of the year. The other asset is the 807,300-square-foot former New York Times Building at 229 West 43rd St., which the company plans to renovate into an office and retail complex. The buyer paid Africa Israel $49 million for a 49 percent share of the property, with an option to buy 1 percent more, and will take on a pro rata share of paying for the $711 million redevelopment.Also during the conference call, the company reported a second quarter 2008 net loss of 91 million shekels ($25.2 million), compared with a net income of 3.5 million shekels during the same period in 2007. The company attributes its recent loss to financing cost increases connected to the surging Israeli Consumer Price Index, and a $10 million write off related to the new Hard Rock Park theme park in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “The company wrote off its investment in Hard Rock Park due to liquidity difficulties that the park is experiencing due to low attendance,” Africa Israel CFO Ron Fainaro said during the conference call. Last month, Hard Rock Park–which opened in April–laid off about 25 to 30 employees and trimmed its fall opening schedule after it became clear that the park would not hit a projected 3 million visitors for this year, as vacation travel declined in the United States.