A pedestrian passes the new European headquarters of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in London, U.K. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Billionaire Lau Plans Redevelopment of Goldman London HQ

(Bloomberg) -- Joseph Lau’s Chinese Estates Holdings Ltd. has invited companies to pitch to redevelop Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s London headquarters after the bank vacates the building next year, people with knowledge of the plan said.

The Hong Kong billionaire’s company is seeking proposals for River Court, the largest of the interlinking offices that make up Goldman’s main U.K. base, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. A handful of developers have presented ideas for the building in the City of London financial district, including extensions and refurbishment work, they said.

Goldman’s move to a new European headquarters next year will leave a swath of vacant office buildings around London’s Fleet Street, historically the home of Britain’s newspaper industry. The bank will move into a glass and steel building at nearby Plumtree Court, with room for about 8,000 workers.

Any project to modernize the entire space currently occupied by the U.S. investment bank would be among the largest office developments in London. Demand for office space in the U.K. capital has held up better than many expected since the Brexit vote, with technology companies continuing to lease major buildings despite the economic and political uncertainty.

Chinese Estates couldn’t immediately comment. Representatives of brokers Cushman & Wakefield Plc and Savills Plc, which are advising on the project, declined to comment.

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River Court spans about 430,000 square feet (40,000 square meters), the equivalent of almost seven soccer fields, and some of the developers’ proposals include extending it by about 15 percent, the people with knowledge of the plans said.

The building sits within the protected viewing corridor for St. Paul’s Cathedral, making a wholesale redevelopment for a much taller building impossible, the people said. The City of London Corporation’s planning department would prefer to keep the building as an office rather than convert it to another use, such as a hotel, they said. A complete rebuild is unlikely, they added.

Chinese Estates paid about 280 million pounds for River Court when it bought the building in 2011. Goldman itself bought Procession House, another of the office properties that the bank is due to vacate, earlier this year. The company, which paid about 69 million pounds for the building, has approval for a refurbishment project.

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