One-third of the $8.5 billion invested by Kennedy Wilson since 2010 has gone to debt and properties in Ireland, said William McMorrow, Kennedy Wilson chairman and CEO of real estate, at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif.
In the last year, rents in Ireland have gone up and occupancy is close to 95%, Mr. McMorrow said on Monday. He said California technology companies like Google and Facebook are opening offices in Ireland, lured in part by the high-quality, free education system, a young population (half are under age 35) and the 12.5% corporate tax.
Sam Zell, chairman, Equity Group Investments, who spoke on the same panel, said he would not invest in Ireland because Ireland has too small a population. “Five million people have no scale,” he said. Mr. Zell said he preferred to invest in Brazil, even though growth there has slowed, and Colombia.
Peter Lowy, co-CEO of mall investment and management company Westfield Group, said his firm will have &1.4 billion ($1.83 billion) invested in Milan, Italy, by the end of 2014.
“We did the same thing in Sydney. When you invest in major assets with major market penetration, you get very, very good returns,” Mr. Lowy said.
Separately, Westfield on Tuesday announced it sold its 50% interest in its joint venture in Brazil to the Almeida Junior Family. Proceeds represent less than 1% of Westfield's $64.4 billion in total assets before the deal.
“We have decided to dispose our interest in this joint venture as the partnership was not conducive to the achievement of the group's long-term objectives in Brazil,” Mr. Lowy said in a written release.