Writer: Simon Thomsen
Published Date: June 1, 2017
Source: Business Insider
Australia Post has sold Sydney’s historic GPO in Martin Place to billionaire property developers for a reported $150 million.
The government–owned service has confirmed it sold the freehold to the CBD building, which now houses restaurants and a hotel, and the deal has been approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board.
The final hurdle is approval from Commonwealth Heritage for the deal to go through. But the troubled postal service did not reveal the buyer.
Australia Post issued a statement saying it had not operated the site since 1997 when it handed over management under the terms of a 99-year leasehold.
“A substantive part of the Martin Place site where the Westin Hotel operates was previously sold in 1997 and is now owned by the Sino Group,” the company said.
“Crucially, the entire building remains heritage protected – an important factor when considering the sale – and the existing post office will continue to operate under a lease that remains in place until 2096.”
Australia Post said there are “no current plans” for the sale of any other GPO.
“This transaction will free up valuable capital to invest in our people and in our services to the community, without any impact on the continued operation of and heritage protections covering the Sydney GPO site,” the company said.
Fairfax Media reports that Australia Post sold the 1870s sandstone building to Singaporean property developer Far East, run by billionaires Robert and Phillip Ng, in March for $150 million.
Fairfax revealed that a heritage report commissioned by Australia Post last year emphasised keeping the GPO in Australian hands.
“Very substantial loss of significance may occur should any part of the place be sold or otherwise alienated from Australian ownership,” the report warned.
Fairfax claims it saw plans from the new owners in which “Far East intends to make significant changes to the internal structure of the GPO, including a row of luxury shops on the ground floor that would extend into the lower ground floor, which is currently open space”.
The larger retail floor space would allow a significant increase in rents. Other plans include filling a void in the middle of the ground floor, allowing for greater cafe access, and removal of columns that were part of the heritage renovation in 1999.
Far East bought the Westin Hotel in the GPO building in 2015 for $445 million.
Fairfax Media has more here.