Mideast, Asian buyers dominate prime Central London property market

Shoppers crowd the walkways on opening day of the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London, in this September 13, 2011 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 December 2017
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Mideast, Asian buyers dominate prime Central London property market

LONDON: Buyers from the Middle East and Asia were the biggest group of international buyers snapping up properties in prime central London in the third quarter of this year, according to new research.
Middle Eastern investors bought 13 percent of the prime real estate on offer, as did buyers from Asia, according to Hamptons International.
EU investors came in third place, accounting for 10 percent of purchases during the quarter.
The research suggests international buyer appetite for high-end property in the capital is returning after fears about the impact of Brexit coupled with economic problems within their home countries had put off some overseas investors.
The proportion of prime central London property bought by international buyers increased to 51 percent in the third quarter, rising from 44 percent in the previous quarter, according to Hamptons. This is the highest proportion recorded since the third quarter of 2016, when 60 percent of prime central London property was bought by overseas buyers eagerly taking advantage of the weaker exchange rate in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.
Hamptons said that likely factors for this quarter’s increase are strong global growth coupled with relatively cheap London property due to the exchange rate.
The research also backs up the forecasts that suggests Asian buyers are becoming an increasingly important source of investment in the London property market, potentially rivalling the more traditional Middle East investor. In November, Niccolo Barattieri di San Pietro, CEO of property developer Northacre, told Arab News he expected a “dramatic” increase in Asian buyers over the next 10 years. His company is behind the redevelopment of New Scotland Yard, the former headquarters of London’s Metropolitan Police, into luxury apartments. The developer had hosted investor roadshows in Asia in an effort to whip up excitement about the project in that region. The project — known as The Broadway — is due to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2021.
Data from residential property adviser London Central Portfolio (LCP) published in August also revealed that investors from South East Asia were the largest buyer of high-end property with a 36 percent share in the year 2016-2017, followed by Indian buyers with 22 percent of sales and the Middle East accounting for 21 percent.
Middle East investors had previously been the biggest property buyer in the UK capital, with a 43 percent share of all sales, according to LCP’s 2014-2015 audit.
Hamptons defines prime central London as Belgravia, Chelsea, Earls Court, Fulham, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Notting Hill, Paddington, Sloane Square and South Kensington.


Young Iraqis use innovation to make a living in oil-rich south

Updated 9 min 21 sec ago
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Young Iraqis use innovation to make a living in oil-rich south

  • The job market for Iraqi youths has become starkly different in the post-Saddam Hussein era
  • In the decade which followed the US invasion and the dictator’s ouster in 2003, authorities continued to increase state hirings — with a heavy dose of nepotism

BASRA: From a roving cafe to scrap metal sculptures, young Iraqis unable to tap into the country’s oil wealth are having to find creative ways to make a living.
While their parents generally went straight into public sector jobs after graduation, the job market for Iraqi youths has become starkly different in the post-Saddam Hussein era.
In the decade which followed the US invasion and the dictator’s ouster in 2003, authorities continued to increase state hirings — with a heavy dose of nepotism.
But now, as 26-year-old Karrar Alaa discovered, there are no more guarantees.
Three years ago, he was counting on his business degree leading to a public sector job in the southern port city of Basra.
But tired of waiting, he has turned entrepreneur.
After gathering up all of his savings and borrowing money from relatives, Alaa invested in a car and transformed it into a coffee shop on wheels.
“It’s the first of its kind in Basra. I got the idea from a video shot in Europe and posted on Facebook,” he told AFP.
The “Coffee 2 Go” car has a giant plastic cup mounted on the roof, while an image of a cup of cappuccino and coffee beans is emblazoned on the body.
An initial investment of $20,000 has led to daily earnings of around 150,000 dinars, or $120, from cups of coffee made in a machine installed in the car boot.
Mashreq Jabbar earns similar sums from his little bookshop squeezed into a corridor of a Basra fashion mall.
“Renting a shop costs $6,000 a month; I only pay $2,500 for my hallway,” said the slim 26-year-old, as he tidied shelves of school books, romantic novels and poetry collections.
The geology graduate had also hoped to get a job as a public official, confident that his degree would make him employable in the local oil industry.
But even though the sector accounts for 89 percent of the state budget and 99 percent of Iraq’s export revenues, it provides only one percent of jobs as the majority of posts are filled by foreigners.
The lack of opportunities is nationwide; from the capital Baghdad to second city Mosul in the north, and from the agricultural east to the western desert.
It is not uncommon to find engineers working as taxi drivers, or sandwich stalls manned by literature graduates in a country of avid readers.
Officially, 10.8 percent of Iraqis are jobless, while youth unemployment is twice as high in a country where 60 percent of the population are aged under 24.
A mushrooming number of private universities — with Baghdad boasting around 30 — has made the situation even worse among graduates.
The private sector which emerged after Saddam’s rule has failed to fill the employment gap, with many young Iraqis holding out for the coveted public sector posts.
“The common view is that there’s no choice but to work in the public sector,” said Ahmed Abdel Hassan, an economics professor at the University of Basra.
“Young people who go to work in the private sector say it’s a temporary move before getting a post in the public sector,” he said.
Even Basra’s entrepreneurs see the benefits, with Alaa noting the social security and pension perks, while Jabbar pointed to civil servants’ guaranteed salaries.
Many of those holding out for a state job, however, are left unable to move out of their parents’ house.
Omar Abdallah, 28, had pinned his hopes on getting a teaching job at the end of his studies in fine art.
Iraq once had a high-quality and free education system, but that was left in tatters following the international embargo of the 1990s after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait.
Having failed to land a job and with no capital to start a business of his own, Abdallah began collecting scrap metal.
“I could only count on myself and my talent,” he said at his family home, where one room serves as both his workshop and exhibition space.
Abdallah has transformed old bicycle chains into scorpions, cutlery into dragonflies and used nuts and bolts to make motorbike models.
In a good month he can sell half a dozen sculptures, charging between $200 and $250 apiece.
“People love my sculptures,” he said proudly. “They tell me: ‘How did you manage to make something so beautiful out of rubbish?’“