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Ascott Acquires 411-Room Hotel in Times Square, New York

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Ascott Residence Trust (Ascott Reit) is expanding its footprint to the United States of America by acquiring the 411-key Element New York Times Square West hotel located in Midtown Manhattan for US$163.5 million (approximately S$220.7 million).

The accretive acquisition at an EBITDA yield of 6.2% is expected to increase Ascott Reits distribution income in FY 2014 by US$0.8 million, translating to a rise in distribution per unit from 8.44 cents to 8.51 cents on a pro forma basis.

 The acquisition comes hot on the heels of Ascott Reits purchase of three serviced residences and four rental housing properties in Australia and Japan.

Mr Lim Jit Poh, Ascott Residence Trust Management Limiteds (ARTML) Chairman, said, Our first acquisition in the U.S. is a strategic step that will enable us to capitalise on the burgeoning hospitality market. The U.S. economy has been growing steadily in the past few years and is forecasted to expand by 2.4% in 2015 and 2.5% in 2016. Recovery in the U.S. hospitality market has also gained momentum. RevPAR, particularly in gateway cities like New York where there is high demand for accommodation, has improved significantly. RevPAR in the U.S. is expected to increase by about 7.0% in 2015. With future demand growth expected to continue to outpace supply, we are confident that this acquisition will further enhance Ascott Reits portfolio and Unitholders returns.

Mr Lim said: Ascott Reit started in the Asia Pacific in 2006, expanded to Europe in 2010 and now we are acquiring a prime asset in the key gateway city of New York that will provide us with a strong foothold to expand our presence in the high demand market of the U.S. Our entry into the U.S. will not only further diversify Ascott Reits portfolio across different countries and property cycles but also catapult Ascott Reit into a global hospitality player.

Mr Lim added: This U.S. acquisition and our recent acquisitions in Australia and Japan with a total of 1,563 units will broaden Ascott Reits earning base and increase our scale to 11,779 units. Ascott Reits asset size will also increase by S$519 million to S$4.6 billion. When the acquisition of the new Cairnhill serviced residence in Singapore is completed in 2017 as targeted, Ascott Reits asset size will expand by another S$405 million to over S$5.0 billion. As we aim to grow Ascott Reits asset size to S$6.0 billion by 2017, we will continue to actively seek acquisition opportunities from both third parties and our sponsor, The Ascott Limited, in key cities in the Asia Pacific, Europe and the U.S.

Located on 39th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue, the property benefits from having one of New York Citys most desirable addresses Times Square.

Besides having the highest concentration of entertainment venues, tourist attractions and restaurants in New York, Times Square has also evolved into one of Manhattans premier locations for corporate offices. Notable companies based in Times Square include Barclays Capital, Ernst & Young, Morgan Stanley, Nasdaq, ABC News, New York Times, Reuters and Viacom.

 The property is within easy reach of the area's many sought after attractions, including Broadway theatre, Macys department store, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, Central Park as well as dining, shopping, and sightseeing options.

Within blocks of 15 subway lines and three major commuter hubs as well as easy accessibility by bus, Element New York Times Square West provides business and leisure travellers with utmost convenience and connectivity.

The property offers deluxe rooms, studio suites and one-bedroom suites with fully-equipped kitchenettes or kitchens. There is also a fitness centre, business centre, meeting rooms, rooftop terrace, a bar that offers guests complimentary breakfast, as well as a 24-hour gourmet pantry with a wide selection of snacks, beverages and ready-to-go meals.

Mr Ronald Tay, ARTMLs Chief Executive Officer, said, This is an accretive acquisition of a quality asset that is centrally located in Times Square of Midtown Manhattan, which is not only the largest central business district in the U.S., but also the country's largest commercial, entertainment and media centre. As the trade and cultural epicentre of Manhattan, Times Square is also one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations visited by more than 40 million tourists annually. With 411 rooms, this relatively new property, which opened in November 2010, has been achieving strong performance with over 90% occupancy in the last three years.

After the acquisition, the property will continue to be operated by LG-39 Management LLC and its affiliates under the Element brand through a franchise by Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

Mr Tay said: The current operator, which has been running the property since its opening, is well established in New York. It currently operates 19 hotels with over 3,800 rooms in the U.S. Ascott Reit remains open to acquiring properties that are operated by reputable third parties as long as such acquisitions meet our investment criteria and there is avenue for growth.

Ascott Reit will partly fund the acquisitions of the properties in Australia, Japan and the U.S. with the S$250 million proceeds from its issuance of perpetual securities at a fixed distribution rate of 4.68% per annum. The perpetual securities received strong investor participation with orders exceeding four times of the issue size.

Mr Tay added: The issuance of perpetual securities is part of Ascott Reits prudent capital management strategy to tap diversified funding sources and enhance our financial flexibility to seize growth opportunities. Perpetual securities is a good source of funding to finance our acquisitions while maintaining our gearing at about 40%. Our maiden issuance of S$150 million perpetual securities in October last year has been trading above par, demonstrating the high demand for our perpetual securities. We are encouraged by the strong investor confidence and will continue to strengthen Ascott Reits position as the largest hospitality trust in Singapore by asset value.

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