Asian buyers dominate London properties

Updated: 2011-05-27 07:59

By Chris Spillane (China Daily)

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Asian buyers dominate London properties

Signs advertising houses for sale in London. Asian investors, deterred by inflated property prices and curbs on speculation at home, are targeting markets such as the United Kingdom that may offer better returns. Michael Crabtree / Bloomberg News

LONDON - Asian buyers accounted for the majority of new home purchases in central London for the first time as they took advantage of the pound's weakness and avoided rising prices at home, said Knight Frank LLP.

The share of deals increased to 59 percent in the six months through April from 48 percent a year earlier, the London-based real-estate broker said in a report on Thursday. Most of the Asian buyers were based in Hong Kong or Singapore, where residential property prices have risen to record levels this year.

"The exchange rate is crucial," said Sebastian Warner, a partner at the firm. "On the other side of the coin, their markets are incredibly hot."

Asian investors, deterred by inflated property prices and curbs on speculation at home, are targeting markets such as the UK that may offer better returns. They have acquired about 120 million pounds ($194 million) of London real estate in the past two months, with most purchases in the 400,000-pound to 1 million-pound range, Knight Frank estimates.

The pound has lost about 25 percent of its value against a basket of currencies since the housing market peaked in the third quarter of 2007. The Singapore dollar has appreciated by more than 50 percent against the UK currency in that time.

Hong Kong buyers acquired more homes than any other Asian grouping, accounting for 24 percent of all purchases of newly built properties. Singapore was second with 12 percent and the Chinese mainland third with a 10 percent share.

In contrast, the proportion of acquisitions by UK buyers dropped to about 35 percent in the six-month period from 40 percent a year earlier, Knight Frank said. Luxury-home prices in London rose at the fastest rate in a year in the first quarter, fueled by overseas buyers, said Savills PLC in March.

Asian purchasers have reserved five luxury apartments at 10 Trinity Square, a Grade II-listed residential and hotel development near the Tower of London, according to one of the owners of the property. That's half of the reservations that have been made for the 37 homes on offer.

"We're looking to set a benchmark in the City of London," said Leny Suparman, chief executive officer of Singapore-based KOP Properties Pte Ltd. Last year, KOP and the Chinese investment firm Reignwood Group bought the Trinity Square building, which used to be the headquarters of the Port of London Authority. The conversion won't be completed until 2014.

Hong Kong's house prices have gained more than 70 percent since the start of 2009 to the highest since 1997, making it the world's most expensive place to buy an apartment, according to Savills. Singapore's economy grew at an annual rate of 23.5 percent in the first three months of 2011, driving home prices to a record.

Li Ka-shing, who controls the developer Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd, last week warned property speculators that the surge in Hong Kong's home prices may not be sustainable. The city's property price rally is nearing an end and may drop as much as 20 percent next year and a further 10 percent in 2013, according to Barclays Capital Asia Ltd last month.

New homes are more popular among Asian investors than those that have already been occupied, Knight Frank's Warner said.

"They want clean, crisp, new properties so that they can have a decent rental investment or a decent place to stay when they are in town," he said.

Bloomberg News


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