Investor banks on long-term strategy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 May, 2009, 12:00am

Anyone who has whiled away hours of fun or torment playing the London version of Monopoly knows that Mayfair and Park Lane are places where the money is, particularly when you have built up a portfolio of little red hotels.

Grosvenor's presence in the British capital has been likened to the popular board game as large swathes of Mayfair and Belgravia are owned by this family company. As one London newspaper recently put it, 'The Duke of Westminster owns the best bits of the Monopoly board'.

Quite a few eyebrows were raised in London finance circles when Grosvenor suffered its first loss in 19 years. In April, it announced a pre-tax loss of US$886.2 million last year, compared with a profit of about US$832 million the previous year. But that renowned British stiff upper lip came to the fore when Grosvenor chief executive, former Hong Kong resident Mark Preston, quipped: 'We've been in existence for over 300 years and in that time we've experienced 20 recessions and 250 wars around the world.'

Grosvenor has been building its presence in East Asia over the past few years with projects in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and an office planned for Beijing. For Nicholas Loup, who heads Grosvenor's team in this part of the Duke's empire, old money from Britain will continue to be welcomed.

'At the end of the day I am working for a family company which has rich history in Britain,' Mr Loup said.

'Culturally, it puts you on a very good footing for doing business in Asia where there is a culture of family businesses. So this comes quite naturally for us ... and it's been very rewarding working with other family-run businesses here.'

Grosvenor also finds it natural to adopt a long-term strategy to property investment.

These days that is usually in decades rather than centuries.