Swiss banks are well-regarded safe havens. Long-standing provisions protect the identity and financial security of an account holder, while Switzerland’s highly stable economy is a proven safeguard to banking clients around the world. The European nation of 8.7 million people produced $813 billion in goods and services in 2021, an economy that’s roughly the same size as Pennsylvania’s.
When it comes to commercial real estate, Swiss investors placed slightly more than $1.9 billion into 37 U.S. properties over the course of 2021, according to MSCI Real Assets (formerly known as Real Capital Analytics). This represented 2.7% of all foreign capital used to purchase U.S. commercial assets during this period. Compared to 2020, Swiss companies increased the dollar volume of their acquisitions by a modest 27%.
During the four-quarter period ending in March 2022, Swiss investors remained consistent with this pace, acquiring 29 properties with an aggregate value of $1.9 billion. GMF Capital led the way with eight purchases totaling nearly $600 million, while Stoneweg SA acquired nine properties for a total outlay of $561 million, MSCI reported.
Although Switzerland increased its investment volume and placed No. 8 among cross-border capital sources in 2021, it dropped two spots in the MSCI rankings compared to 2020. This was due in part to the sizzling activity of Middle Eastern players Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, both of which nearly tripled their 2020 volume to move ahead of Switzerland. Swiss companies were actually net sellers in 2021, MSCI reported. UBS, Partners Group and GMF Capital each ranked among the top 11 cross-border sellers last year, with the trio offloading a total of 127 assets on U.S. soil.
Like many other financial-services companies in recent years, GMF has become part of the “Wall Street South” movement, announcing the relocation of its U.S. headquarters from New York City to South Florida in September 2021. The company has a reported $10 billion in assets, with additional offices in Baltimore and Nashville.
GMF has been active in Florida recently. In October of last year, it obtained a $53 million bridge loan to purchase a 260-unit Class A apartment complex in the Tampa metro area. A month earlier, GMF acquired a newly built, 200-unit multifamily community in the coastal city of Port St. Lucie, using a $35 million Freddie Mac loan in the process. And in April 2022, GMF sold a Tampa apartment building for a reported $91 million.
Stoneweg, which has its U.S. headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, has deployed $500 million in equity to buy more than 13,000 multifamily units since 2016. This past June, it nabbed a 298-unit trophy property in the thriving Charlotte neighborhood of NoDa. Stoneweg also owns multifamily housing in cities such as Cincinnati; Indianapolis; Louisville, Kentucky; and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Geneva-based Reuben Brothers has a diversified international real estate portfolio that includes retail stores, hotels, data centers and the London Heliport. Last year, the company expanded its footprint in Manhattan by snapping up three Madison Avenue retail properties at a discount from Vornado Realty Trust. The buildings were supposedly poor performers with occupancy rates of about 30%. Brothers David and Simon Reuben reportedly head the third-wealthiest family in the United Kingdom with a fortune of some 22 billion pounds, and last year bought a 10% stake in English Premier League football club Newcastle United. ●