NRIs chase properties in UK

London: The number of prosperous Indians seeking to buy high-end property in London and elsewhere in Britain is growing exponentially, and most are willing to pay well over 1 million pounds for a place under the British sun.

Thanks to a growing economy and globalisation of enterprise, more and more Indian companies are opening offices in London to leverage its geographical, historical and financial advantages. This has resulted in swathes of prime property being bought by Indian entrepreneurs either for themselves or their companies.

Indian businessmen now rival Chinese and Russian plutocrats in chasing prime property in London, according to leading estate agents.

Joining the chase is Shilpa Shetty, winner of reality show Celebrity Big Brother , who is reported to be buying a home in the trendy Hoxton area of north London.

The record for buying the most expensive property in London so far stands in the name of Lakshmi Mittal, who bought numbers 18-19, Kensington Palace Gardens, for 57.1 million pounds in 2004.

The Indian buyers do not only come from India but also include the British Indians who have settled here for several years. And having done well, they are keen to move upwards on the property ladder.

Estate agents say that such is the interest from Indian buyers that many agents have now set up a separate desk to deal with Indian buyers. These include Savills, a top-end estate agency, Hamptons and Knight Frank.

London has a unique place in the Indian imagination. The capital is seen as a safe investment destination that includes all cultural and other accoutrements attractive to the globalised Indian entrepreneur. Owning property in London or having a London address is seen as a key statement for this growing class.

London is said to be particularly attractive to the global super-rich because of its accessibility, stability, low taxation and global standing of its financial institutions. It is seen as a magnet to the world’s billionaires.

According to Sheetell Halai, who runs Savills’ India desk: “The question for Indians used to be, ‘How big is your house?’ Now it’s, ‘How many do you have?’ She says the majority of her clients are looking for flats, with a budget of 1 million to 6 million pounds.

She told local media that Indians in search of houses were prepared to pay 7 million to 8 million pounds. Savills is also planning to target expatriate Indians based in Hong Kong, Shanghai and the US, keen to invest in London.

Such is the pace of acquisition by Indians that estate agents are already talking of a new ‘Asian arc’ stretching from Watford, Hertfordshire, through Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire to St. George’s Hill in Surrey.

Jaideep Singh of Knight Frank said:”2007 is going to be very big for Indian buyers. The rich are getting richer and now the middle-class Indians are coming here to set up offices and buy a place – but they are shocked that their 2 million pounds will buy so little.”

London has been consistently ranked by independent studies as the best place to locate a business in Europe. A third of the Fortune Global 500 have their European headquarters in London. Foreign-owned companies account for one quarter of all businesses in London.

London is seen as the world’s best gateway to international markets, including the 450 million people in the European Union, the biggest single market in the world. Many of the international companies who locate in the capital use it as their launch point for European or global expansion.

(Courtesy: TOI)