Shops High Street Carnaby Street

LONDON — A reclusive billionaire from Hong Kong is set to bid for one of London’s most prominent property companies, which owns large chunks of the Soho and Covent Garden districts.

According to The Times, Samuel Tak Lee could make a bid for property firm Shaftesbury imminently, despite having never actually meeting the company. Lee has reportedly been slowing building up his stake in Shaftesbury over the past years, with the stake passing 18% last month. 

That has led people within the company to believe that Lee is preparing a bid, the Times reports. 

“The company and its advisers assume that the build-up of a stake which went beyond 18 per cent last month is a prelude to a full takeover bid,” says the newspaper’s Martin Waller.

Lee is already a major property owner in London, owning Langham Estate, which has a portfolio of properties located between Oxford Street and Regent’s Park.

Shaftesbury owns property in some of London’s busiest areas, including shopping and dining hub Carnaby, which was once famous as the heart of the capital’s fashion industry. It also owns large parts of Chinatown and Covent Garden. The company has a value of around £2.6 billion.

If Lee were to take control of Shaftesbury, it would add to the already substantial foreign ownership of property in the most recognisable areas of central London. In February, the annual report of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the largest on earth, showed that it spent around £400 million buying two major retail spaces on London’s Oxford Street in 2016.

That added to a portfolio which already included 25% of Regent Street, parts of New Bond Street, and properties on Savile Row, the street famous across the world for its tailors.

You can read The Times’ full report here.

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