International Property

Hong Kong investors take advantage of depressed pound to swoop on London property

About 80 per cent of London property investment has come from abroad so far this year, and most of that came from Hong Kong, according to Colliers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 4:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 7:56pm

Hong Kong investors are increasingly taking advantage of a pound weakened by concerns over Brexit to snap up properties in the UK capital, , according to industry observers.

“First of all, the Chinese government has tightened the outflow of capital and in addition some of these Chinese investors are not so confident about the UK situation after Brexit,” said Mark Charlton, director of research and forecasting at Colliers International. “Meanwhile, many Hong Kong investors will see this as an opportunity to go into the London market, especially as the currency has dropped by more than 10 per cent.”

What’s more, Hong Kong investors will never be able to buy such “good quality” property assets in “such a good location” anywhere else in the world except London, said Charlton.

Britain’s pound slipped almost 1 per cent to a nine-month low against the euro last Thursday, after the Bank of England voted 6-2 to keep interest rates at their record lows and lowered its forecasts for growth, inflation and wages, according to Reuters.

The currency has been on a bumpy ride since the UK voted to leave the European Union in June 2016.

According to data compiled by Colliers, the London property market has been dominated by overseas investors in the year to date, with over 80 per cent of investment coming from abroad. Sixty per cent of that stemmed from Chinese investors headquartered in Hong Kong.

Many Hong Kong investors will see this as an opportunity to go into the London market, especially as the currency has dropped by more than 10 per cent
Mark Charlton, Colliers International

With that said, Colliers pointed out that the flood of far eastern money may be slowing in its recent note, adding that the previously anticipated price advantage caused by further weakening of sterling has not fully materialised.

In a survey conducted in April, of more than 6,000 adults across five major global markets – Hong Kong, China, Singapore, the UAE and the UK – the number of Hong Kong investors willing to put their money into property abroad in 2017 had double from a year earlier.

“It looks like a combination of a weaker pound and uncertainty in the domestic Hong Kong market over the past 12 months has encouraged greater numbers of investors to consider foreign markets,” said Jonathan Gordon , director at IP Global, an global property investment company, who commissioned the research.

“There is an ongoing appetite for prime assets from international investors, particularly from China and Hong Kong, who, as of the first half of 2017, have committed £7.2 billion to UK real estate,” said Chris Brett, head of international capital markets at CBRE.

A string of Hong Kong investors have been piling in to the UK property market in 2017, with the latest example being Hong Kong’s oyster sauce king, Lee Kum Kee Group, which bought up a London office tower for a record £1.3 billion (US$1.7 billion) in July, the biggest commercial property deal in the United Kingdom.

Among the 12 key London deals by investors from the Asia-Pacific region during the first half of 2017, Hong Kong companies such as Emperor International and Joint Treasure International, backed by a number of major Hong Kong names, have been high up on the list. They have snapped up premium assets including the Ampersand building and St James’s Square in London, according to Colliers International.