It took just one 15-minute phone call in July to persuade Ifei Chang to join Shanghai- based developer Greenland Holding Group Co. and lead a U.S. expansion. Within three months, she was running $6 billion of projects as part of a record push by Chinese investors into American property.
Greenland reached a preliminary agreement in October to buy a 70 percent stake in the $5 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, New York. That followed a July deal to acquire a $1 billion residential-and- entertainment project in downtown Los Angeles. Chang, who took charge of that site upon arriving in the U.S., is now on the hunt for more investments.
“In China, you climb a ladder where everything is floating and moving so fast,” Chang, 49, said in an interview at her sparsely furnished 46th-floor L.A. office overlooking the empty lot where the Metropolis project will be built. “We come from a country of 1.4 billion people and a lot of economic growth. This kind of project and investment speed is very normal in China. That’s why we are so confident we will deliver this project.”
Greenland, like other Chinese companies, is committing to a growing number of multibillion-dollar developments outside of its home market. Chinese investments in U.S. commercial properties jumped almost 10-fold last year from 2012, with Manhattan the biggest area for purchases, followed by other New York City boroughs and Los Angeles, according to research firm Real Capital Analytics Inc.