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Founders of Panda Express enter Las Vegas office market

Panda Express is known for serving up chow mein, broccoli beef and other Chinese food in malls and airports around the country.

Now its billionaire founders are making a bet on a different line of business: Las Vegas’ office market.

Andrew and Peggy Cherng, the co-CEOs of Panda Restaurant Group, recently bought a four-building, 210,000-square-foot office complex at Town Center and Covington Cross drives in Summerlin, according to a broker on the deal.

The $47.9 million sale, by Houston-based Hines and Los Angeles’ Oaktree Capital Management, closed Sept. 7, property records show.

Compared to other types of real estate in town, Las Vegas’ office market has been slower to recover from the recession, given its high, albeit shrinking, vacancy rate. But the Cherngs’ new buildings are almost fully occupied, and the couple paid a higher-than-average price for them.

Listing broker Marlene Fujita of CBRE Group, who confirmed the sale, could not confirm whether this was a personal investment for the Cherngs or a purchase for their restaurant company. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

As far as she knows, the couple is not moving Panda Restaurant Group’s headquarters there, but they would like to use some office space in the complex.

Fujita said the buildings are currently 95 percent occupied. Fujita could not immediately confirm their occupancy rate when Hines and Oaktree bought them in 2012 as part of a 32-building Summerlin office purchase, but she noted the 1.1 million-square-foot portfolio was just 50 percent occupied at that time.

The Cherngs’ purchase amounts to $228 per square foot. By comparison, investors have paid an average of around $174 per square foot for Southern Nevada office properties this year, according to brokerage Colliers International.

A Hines spokesman could not be reached for comment Monday. Oaktree did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the Cherngs were unavailable for comment.

The first Panda Express debuted in 1983. The Rosemead, California-based company now boasts more than 1,900 locations and $2 billion in sales.

Forbes magazine puts the Cherngs’ net worth at $3.3 billion.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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