With Latin American investment slowing in the wake of a stronger US dollar, Chinese investors are picking up some of the slack. But what kind of appetite do they have for American assets?
GlobeSt.com caught up with Arnstein & Lehr partner Ronald R. Fieldstone, who recently made several trips to China, to discuss how EB-5 helps Chinese investors spread their wings in US commercial real estate and what types of assets turn their head in part two of this exclusive interview. You can still read part one: What if the EB-5 Program Is Not Renewed?
GlobeSt.com: What kind of appetite Chinese investors have for US’ EB-5 visas?
Fieldstone: I recently spoke at an EB-5 Conference in China and attended the Investment in the United States annual meeting in Washington. In early May, I traveled to China again with respect to a large gaming project in Las Vegas.
Chinese investors are still very interested in migrating to United States and are actively pursuing investing in the EB-5 program notwithstanding the fact that retrogression has impacted the Chinese market. Retrogression in effect provides that when the 10,000-visa cap has been reached in a given fiscal year, then any country who absorbs more than 7% of the allocable visas, which is only China, will be subject to a delay in receiving EB-5 visas to migrate to the United States.
It is estimated that the delay could be anywhere from one to two extra years. But many other US immigration programs have a much longer wait time, so it is unclear right now whether this will materially impact the ability to market EB-5 programs in China. In my meetings with numerous marketing agents in China that issue has yet to become a major factor.
GlobeSt.com: What kind of real estate projects do EB-5 Chinese investors feel more comfortable with and what kind of return they want?
Fieldstone: The favored projects generally include brand name hotels; mixed-use projects involving very large developers that have a substantial track record in the industry; multifamily housing and in particular, student housing, given the perception that multifamily housing is a basic necessity and is generally very stable from an economic standpoint.
They also like projects affiliated with institutions such as hospitals, universities or government agencies. These institutional-type projects automatically have a presumption of credibility given the institutional involvement. This also includes regulated health care projects such as assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
It is interesting to note that the Chinese investor does not expect any significant rate of return on their invested capital. Today, the normal rate of return to a Chinese investor is half a percent per year.
The key to the Chinese investor is the certainty of the job creation and obtaining the final green card approval. Also, they want certainty they will receive a return of capital within a reasonable timeframe with a realistic exit strategy of the project being refinanced or sold to enable the repayment of the EB-5 investment. Most EB-5 funding is based upon a loan.
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