Swiss Re sells the "Gherkin"

The "Gherkin" is one of London's main landmarks (30stmaryaxe.com)

The Swiss Reinsurance Company has announced it has sold its award-winning City of London office building known as the "Gherkin" for £600 million (SFr1.47 billion).

This content was published on February 5, 2007 - 11:47

Swiss Re, which is the world's largest reinsurer, said the buyer was an affiliate of German real estate company IVG Immobilien, based in Bonn.

In a statement from its Zurich headquarters, Swiss Re said it would remain the main tenant of the 41-storey building, which was designed by star architect Norman Foster.

The sale, which was mooted in mid-September because of an "attractive market environment", is due to be completed by the end of this month.

Swiss Re said that a number of potential investors had showed interest in 30 St Mary Axe but it had decided on IVG Immobilien because of its "excellent track record" in managing properties.

The acquisition by IVG Immobilien and the London-based investment bank Evans Randall sets a record for a building in the city's financial district.

IVG, which manages €18 billion of mostly European real estate, said the acquisition cost a total of £630 million, including fees. It added that the building had "excellent long-term letting prospects".

Highest bar

Swiss Re has half of the rented space in the tower, which boasts London's highest bar and has featured in a number of films, including Woody Allen's "Match Point".

"Swiss Re is very proud to have built what has become a popular landmark in the City of London," commented Swiss Re's chief executive Jacques Aigrain.

"We have found a future owner who will maintain and preserve the superior quality of this outstanding property."

Swiss Re is said to have spent about SFr500 million to build the "Gherkin" on the site of the Baltic Exchange, which was badly damaged by a 1992 bomb attack by the Irish Republican Army. It opened in late 2003.

The reinsurer occupies floors two to 15 of the tower, which generates annual rent of more than £27 million, according to a real estate adviser.

When Swiss Re confirmed in September that it was evaluating a sale of the property, it said it remained committed to London as one of the most important cities for the financial services industry.

As such, the portion of 30 St Mary Axe occupied by Swiss Re would not change in the foreseeable future.

In its statement on the deal, IVG said Swiss Re would continue to be the main tenant of the rentable space until at least 2031.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Swiss Re, based in Zurich, is the world's largest reinsurer, which is basically the business of insuring the insurers.
Founded in 1863, it operates through offices in more than 30 countries.
The company reported net profit of SFr1.5 billion in 2005 in a year characterised by natural catastrophes.

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30 St Mary Axe

The "Gherkin" was officially opened at the end of May 2004.

The building won the top prize for architecture in Britain in 2004 – the Royal Institute of Architects' Stirling Prize.

At 180 metres, it is more than three times the height of Niagara Falls.

The building's plaza measures a total of 2,000 square metres – equivalent to eight tennis courts.

It has 24,000 sq m of external glass – equivalent to five football pitches.

There is only one piece of curved glass – the lens at the top of the building.

The plaza with its Arcadian Garden is open to the public but the building is a private office block.

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