Rapaki getting out of town

21:49, Jun 21 2009

Major property investor and developer Simon Henry wants to sell out of Christchurch to concentrate on Auckland industrial property.

"Everything I own in the South Island is for sale," says Henry, a Cantabrian, whose company Rapaki Group is based in Christchurch, but who now lives in Auckland. "I am quite spread out around the country and I'd like to be more consolidated."

Henry owns about 30 buildings in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and has about 240 tenants.

His Christchurch portfolio adds up to about 15 properties worth a total of perhaps $100 million. He has been buying property in the city for about 20 years, once describing it as "a very expensive hobby".

But the sell-off will not be quick, and all the group's properties in the city may not be sold. "All the property is on the market until I have enough capital to have a play around on the Auckland market," he says.

Already sold but not yet settled are Rapaki's two neighbouring office and retail buildings on Cashel St just east of Manchester St - Insignis House and Development House.

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Meanwhile, the For Sale sign is up on the historic Christchurch horse bazaar, an early 20th-century horse- auction house which Henry had consent to demolish 10 years ago.

The large brick building, which fronts on to Madras and Lichfield streets and Bedford Row, was saved by a Christchurch City Council grant in 2000 and has since been leased as a bar and entertainment venue.

Henry says he wants about $1.7m for the property, which is registered with the Historic Places Trust and which marketing agent Phil Cooper, of Colliers, describes as having "a lot of possibilities".

The biggest property in the portfolio, the eight-storey Inland Revenue building opposite the horse bazaar, is not being actively marketed and Henry says that as such a large asset it may take time to sell. He has already received some interest in the property from group buyers, he says.

It is the central city's biggest office building and one of the city's most valuable properties.

Henry put up the IRD building after the old Farmers department store complex on the site was burned in a major fire in 2005, retaining facades from some small historic buildings on the site.

Another valuable property owned by Rapaki is the recently refurbished Link Centre arcade and office building between High and Hereford streets, formerly called the National Mutual building then the Axa Centre.

Rapaki's North Island properties include the 14-storey AMI House in Albert St, downtown Auckland, and a 13-storey office building on The Terrace in central Wellington.

Henry believes that despite tough times in the commercial property market, now is a good time to sell his South Island holdings.

"On the one hand we have a recession but on the other hand it is a good time to buy if you have the money."

The cash Rapaki raises will go to buy industrial property in south Auckland, particularly in the Tamaki and Wiri areas where large tracts of industrial land have recently been opened up for development. Henry says the Auckland industrial scene has good opportunities.

The Press