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Monday, 9 December

Boy From Brazil Lifts London Trophy Building

Bids for the old Swiss Re building at 30 St Mary Axe aka The Gherkin were lodged recently from around the world with the expectation that a number of financial institutions would take shares. The agents for the sale (Savills and Deloitte Real Estate) had in excess of 200 interested parties. It has just transpired that a single Brazilian-Swiss Bank (J. Safra Sarasin) has scooped the lot for a reported £700 million.

The J in J Safra stands for Joseph - who is said to be responsible for the bold move despite European operations being conducted by his son Jacob. Joseph is the patriarch of the Brazilian connection that bought Sarasin and merged European and North American operations into it. The original Brazil Safra bank's wealth comes from old money - the Safra family can trace its history from Persia and Syria to the New World. Safra Asset Management has offices around the world including Mayfair in London. Safra owns property around the world including high-profile properties in New York. In a press statement, The Safra Group said 30 St Mary Axe has excellent value growth potential. We intend to make the building even more desirable through active ownership that will lead to a range of enhancements that will benefit tenants.

The Gherkin - or Aubergine as Sir Norman Foster wanted its moniker to be back when it opened in 2004 - was sold by Swiss Re (which is short for Re-insurance) for a profit in 2006. Though Swiss Re remained (and still remains) as a tenant, the fund that bought the building (a partnership between Germany's IVG Immobilien and UK Evans Randall) defaulted on loans and the property went into receivership. It has taken this long to find a buyer as no-one was prepared to step in and take a risk even at a knock down price during the recession...this was partly why a consortium was expected to be formed.

But now property, especially in London, is booming, the boy from Brazil is sure to be confident of making a Real or two as he single-handedly lifts one of London's trophy buildings.

Article written by Brian Shillibeer

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