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Chinese High Rollers Invest in US Real Estate

It is a well known property in a very well known zip code.

"We want to build not the time the market is picking up. We want to build a little bit in advance."" -Joint Treasure International, senior advisor, Daniel Yiu

A small group of wealthy Hong Kong families and businesses, plus one from Singapore, have bought a foreclosed parcel on the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica in Beverly Hills, 90210. The group, Joint Treasure International, paid $148.3 million, 70 percent less than the previous owners paid.

The 8-acre site was once home to a Robinson's department store next to the Beverly Hilton. It closed in 2006, and the following year, British developers Nick and Christian Candy bought the site for a whopping $500 million. They defaulted, and a bank owned by Carlos Slim took over the property, selling it this month to Joint Treasure in a private, heated auction.

"It's one of a kind," says Joint Teasure senior advisor Daniel Yiu. The group plans to develop the site into luxury townhomes.

This isn't the first time Joint Treasure has bought in the U.S.

Yiu says they first started buying so-called "trophy properties" at the bottom of the market in the '90s, properties like the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and the Four Seasons in New York. They financed a 12-block development on South Riverside Drive in New York and bought apartment and condo buildings like The Horizon and Park Avenue Court. Then they sold nearly everything by 2007, as the market topped, except for the Beverly Wilshire, which one partner loved so much he bought the others out.

Now, Yiu says, it's time to start buying again, even though the recovery is some years away, in his opinion. "We want to build not the time the market is picking up. We want to build a little bit in advance."

Here are three parts of my exclusive interview with Daniel Yiu which provide insight into how these successful, high roller investors from Asia make their decisions.

First, Yiu explains their real estate philosophy, learned from an unnamed veteran in New York.

Why Beverly Hills? Daniel Yiu explains the name has special weight in Asia.

Finally, Daniel Yiu explains why Joint Treasure does not pay cash and adds that the investors have no trouble getting financing.