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China, Korea drive Europe commercial property boom

Oli Scarff | Getty Images

Chinese and Korean investors are snapping up commercial real estate in major European countries, helping drive investment in the region in the first half of the year, according to property services firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

Net capital inflows into Europe's commercial property sector jumped 18 percent in the first half of 2013 compared with the first half of last year to top $12 billion, and Asia-Pacific investors accounted for nearly half that amount at $5.6 billion, Jones Lang LaSalle said.

"Chinese and South Korean investors have driven this growth, especially in the residential and office sectors, and we expect emerging market institutional capital to be a major theme within commercial investment markets for many years to come," Alistair Meadows, director, international capital group Asia Pacific at Jones Lang LaSalle said on Thursday.

(Read more: Queen of England makes record profit from property)

Over-exposure to local markets, a build-up of capital and increasing confidence in investing in international real estate were some of the reasons why European commercial property has grown in appeal, said David Green-Morgan, research director, global capital markets at Jones Lang LaSalle.

"They're [Koreans are] moving from a market which is very small to the global market, which is enormous and gives them much more potential," Green-Morgan said. "The euro crisis as a factor has certainly disappeared as a reason not to go to Europe."

Green-Morgan adds that although China's economy may be slowing, the capital base within the country is still very large thanks to decades of constant economic growth.

"The government has a policy of promoting offshore investment through its companies, and institutions," Green-Morgan said.

(Read more: Chinese Can't Get Enough of 'Super Cities')

The Asia-Pacific region accounted for the highest level of overseas investment in the first half of the year at $8.5 billion, with South Korea and China leading the charge. Overseas buying activity from the two Asian countries more than doubled in the first half of the year compared with the first six months of 2012, Jones Lang LaSalle said.

Where's the money going?

Acquiring prime real estate in the U.K., France and Germany were the key markets for South Koreans and the Chinese with London remaining the top destination for commercial property globally, the firm said.

"Continuing a now long established theme, 60 percent of all the money moving into Europe from the Americas, Middle East and Asia-Pacific is finding a home in London," Jones Lang LaSalle said.

(Read more: Chinese buyers flee Hong Kong for overseas property markets)

Some notable deals this year included Chinese insurer Ping An's purchase of the landmark London home of insurance firm Lloyds of London for $393.5 million in early July.

Samsung SRA Asset Management, representing a group of South Korean institutional investors, bought 30 Crown Place, a building in the city of London, for $215 million in April.

There are signs that foreign investors are starting to look at investing in secondary cities in Europe, Green-Morgan said.

"Increasingly we are seeing them going to Germany and France and other countries within the euro zone like Sweden," he said.

—By CNBC.com's Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani; Follow her on Twitter @RajeshniNaidu.

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  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.