China's crackdown on outbound investment is creating opportunities for other Asian investors to nab lucrative assets. Last week, Aju Group, a South Korean construction materials company, closed a $87 million acquisition of a hotel near Seattle from Marriott International. The AC Hotel by Marriott Seattle Bellevue, Wash., was the company's fourth U.S. hospitality acquisition. It purchased the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dallas, Texas in 2014 for an undisclosed sum; the Holiday Inn San Jose – Silicon Valley for $53 million in 2015; and The Westin San Jose for $64 million in 2017.
Aju was selected as a preferred buyer in early December 2017 and completed the payment last week.
The company's Aju Hotels & Resorts unit targeted U.S. hotels with 200 to 350 guestrooms, similar in size to those it operates in South Korea. It is seeking out locations in the West and Midwest, regions that are expected to benefit from the shale gas boom, or that could become Amazon’s second headquarters.
In acquiring the hotel, Aju did not turn to institutional investors to raise capital. Instead, it tapped an as-yet unidentified South Korean company as a co-investor.
Aju reportedly plans to renovate its U.S. hotels and then resell them for a profit, KoreanInvestors.com claimed, predicting that the company would attract institutional investors and other South Korean companies to buy its U.S. hotels. Aju sold the Holiday Inn San Jose for $62 million in late 2017 for a profit of almost $10 million two years after purchasing the asset.