London developer eyes MidEast buyers

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London-based St George, the developer behind the UK capital's Chelsea Creek development, will launch the latest phase of its project in the UAE as it looks to target wealthy Gulf investors, a company executive told Arabian Business.

St George, part of the Berkeley Group, hopes to tap into the growing demand for off-plan property in London from Middle Eastern investors for its The Tower and Countess House projects, both part of the Chelsea Creek development.

Around 15 percent of buyers in Chelsea Creek are from the Middle East, said Neil Bowron, sales and marketing director at St George Central London.

“Chelsea Creek to date has been very popular with this market with around 15 percent of our purchases to date from the Middle East. They are predominately from the UAE and Saudi but also a few from the other GCC countries so that’s why we are actively bringing the project to this area,” he said.

London property has long been seen as a safe haven for wealthy Middle East investors but demand has surged in the wake of the Arab Spring as buyers look to shield their wealth from political turmoil in their home countries. 

Buyers from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman accounted for 3.7 percent of London property sales valued at GBP£1m (US$1.6m) and above during 2012, according to data from real estate consultant Knight Frank.

London’s safe haven status coupled with the weak pound and the wide range of schools and universities continues to attract international investors, Knight Frank said in its international residential investment in London report.

“London’s reputation as a global financial centre, its political stability and transparency as well as its lifestyle benefits ensure it remains a popular choice for the globetrotting elite,” said the report.

Overseas buyers, particularly from Asia, are more comfortable with purchasing off-plan property, which has enabled developers to secure funding to develop schemes in a “housing market largely starved of development finance”, added Knight Frank.

St George, which specialises in redeveloping urban brownfield sites, launched Chelsea Creek, a 39-acre site in Chelsea Harbour in 2009. The project, a 24-storey tower, will comprise 44 apartments while neighbouring Countess House will include 29-apartments and penthouses.

The UAE launch is scheduled for April.

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