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Manulife Financial Corp. has acquired three office buildings, including its first in New York City.

KEVIN FRAYER/Canadian Press

The real estate division of Manulife Financial Corp. will spend $555-million to acquire three office buildings, including its first in the New York city area.

Manulife Real Estate said it would buy office buildings in Toronto, San Diego and another along the Hudson River in New Jersey. The deal brings the total value of the company's real estate portfolio to $7.5-billion.

"Each of these properties is of the highest quality, all extremely well-leased with strong tenant rosters, in absolutely superb locations," said Ted Willcocks, global head of asset management.

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The bulk of the company's holdings are in the United States, at 56 per cent. Canada accounts for 36 per cent, and the remaining 8 per cent of its properties are in Asia. The buildings form the foundation of Manulife's real estate fund business.

"Manulife is always looking for opportunities to grow our real estate investment portfolio and we're extremely pleased to secure these exceptional assets in what are three very important and diverse real estate investment markets," said Kevin Adolphe, chief operating officer of Manulife's investment division.

"We are optimistic about the possibilities in these and other key markets and we continue to look for core office, industrial and multi-family residential property investments throughout Canada, the United States and Asia."

–In Toronto, the company purchased the York Mills Centre. The property's four buildings have 549,000 square feet of office and retail space. It was owned by Ivanhoe Cambridge. Manulife now owns more than seven million square feet of space in the city.

–In San Diego, Manulife bought the Seaview Corporate Center, a 355,800-square-foot, four-building office complex on 18 acres overlooking the ocean. The company has been in California since the early 1970s, and owns 28 properties in the state.

–In New Jersey, Manulife bought 10 Exchange Place. The company is billing it as its entry into New York City, since it faces the city from across the Hudson River. The 30-storey office tower was built in 1988.

Canadian real estate companies have been active players on the global stage over the last year, taking advantage of their ability to access financing to acquire buildings and businesses from their rivals. Earlier this month, Canada's largest real estate brokerage increased its U.S. presence as Brookfield Residential Property Services paid $131-million to absorb U.S.-based rival Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services.

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Toronto-based Oxford Properties, meanwhile, is expected to break ground early in the new year on a multibillion-dollar mixed-use project in Manhattan, its first foray into the United States.

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