Chinese Investors Buying Troubled West Coast Hotels, Cheap

Last Updated Mar 29, 2010 11:47 AM EDT

The Los Angeles Marriott Downtown sold to China-based Shenzhen New World Group Co. for $63 million, the latest in a string of distressed and foreclosed hotel sales to Pacific Rim investors. In previous fire sales, the W Hotel in San Francisco and L'Ermitage Beverly Hills were also bought by Asian developers. Is it any surprise, given that $1.4 trillion of the nation's debt, and the fate of the dollar is held in the hands of the Chinese?

Certainly few American companies would take a chance on real estate after being torched in the 2007 real estate bust and the resulting credit crisis offering few options -- except walking away from underwater investments. The Los Angeles Marriott last sold in 2007 for a reported $115 million to the Los Angeles-based Namco Capital Group. The group defaulted on the loan and it was foreclosed on by GE Capital last year.

Shenzen is expected to spend about $13 million renovating the 27-year-old, 469-room hotel, saving approximately 400 jobs and adding a few hundred more as it upgrades the hotel to a five-star rating and current environmental standards. It will have to work quickly if it expects to compete with a new JW Marriott only a few blocks away that opened its doors last month.

While some may be disturbed by the trend, China's economy is booming and real estate is soaring (but learning from U.S. mistakes, the government is attempting to cool that market and prevent an American-sized bust) while America's economy is not. Chinese investors may be attracted by our 50% off sale signs.

Expect more Asian investment in the coming decade or until our economy starts to improve. (For the record, I'm betting on 2013.)

Photo: Los Angeles Marriott Downtown