Hersha Sells Manhattan Hotels to Chinese JV Partner

Hersha Hospitality Trust sold seven of its Manhattan hotels for more than $570 million, through the closing of a joint venture with Cindat Capital Management.
Holiday Inn Express Times Square, Candlewood Suites Times Square and Hampton Inn Times Square

Holiday Inn Express Times Square, Candlewood Suites Times Square and Hampton Inn Times Square

New YorkHersha Hospitality Trust makes another move in its capital recycling program with the sale of seven Manhattan hotels through the closing of a joint venture with China-based Cindat Capital Management Ltd. The price tag on the 1,087-key group of premium limited service hotels was $571.4 million.

There are few spots in Manhattan that aren’t hot so the portfolio, with properties developed between 2003 and 2010, is well-located. Three of the hotels—Candlewood Suites, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn—sit side-by-side in Times Square. The remaining assets include Hampton Inn Chelsea, Hampton Inn Herald Square, Holiday Inn Wall Street and Holiday Inn Express Water Street.

Per the agreement, Cindat, which relied on hospitality real estate consultant Solid Rock Advisors for guidance on the transaction, will serve as senior preferred partner with a 70 percent stake in the joint venture, and Hersha will retain the remaining 30 percent equity interest. It seems the lending community viewed the deal favorably. Ultimately, a Natixis Real Estate Capital-led syndicate of international and domestic financial institutions came through with senior acquisition financing totaling $285 million, and Oaktree Real Estate Finance supplied $50 million of mezzanine financing.

Hunton & Williams LLP lawyers James Seevers, Jr. and James Davidson represented Hersha on the joint venture, Rori Malech represented Hersha on the sale and financing, while Patrick Mitchell and Kendal Sibley advised on the tax aspects of the transaction.

“We have worked closely with Hersha on a number of transformative transactions over the last 17 years, and are privileged to be a part of the team to form this new partnership,” said Seevers. “The transaction allowed Hunton to bring several complementary practices to the table, including REIT, tax, joint-venture, financing, and real estate expertise,” added Malech.

The Manhattan lodging market is thriving and therefore irresistible not only to lenders but to investors as well, particularly those in China. In 2015, Chinese investment in the U.S. hotel sector accounted for 36 percent of the total real estate acquisition activity in the country, with the bulk of the capital flows going into Manhattan, according to a report by commercial real estate services firm Knight Frank. China-based Anbang Insurance Group Co.’s $1.95 billion acquisition of the landmark Waldorf Astoria put an exclamation point on the trend.

“Demand for high-quality U.S. real estate assets is great from Chinese investors. Limited service hotels in Manhattan, in our opinion, offer steady cash flow with relatively low volatility, and hence, good risk-adjusted investment returns,” Greg Peng, Cindat CEO, said in a prepared statement.

As for Hersha, which was represented in the transaction by commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, the REIT will follow its strategy of recycling capital from stabilized properties into higher growth assets, utilizing a portion of the approximately $300 million in proceeds from the seven-property sale to invest in hotels in Washington, D.C., and California. Of course, Hersha is still keen on Manhattan, and it won’t even have to share all of its toys with Cindat, as it still has full ownership of 10 hotels in the borough.