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Allure of London endures for Middle East property investors

Middle East investors are ignoring UK property tax increases and continue to buy prime London homes as a way of shielding their wealth from political turmoil in the region.

Middle East investors are ignoring British property tax increases and continuing to buy prime London homes as a way of shielding their wealth from political turmoil in the region, Harrods Estates, the property division of the famous department store, said yesterday.

Traffic to the company's website from the UAE alone rose 24 per cent in the third quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, as investors from across the region searched for an investment haven.

The estate agent, which like the rest of Harrods is owned by the sovereign wealth fund Qatar Holding, said buyers from the GCC accounted for 40 per cent of its sales last year, up from about 30 per cent in 2008.

Buyers sending money from countries including the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain spent 10 per cent more on London property this year than they did over the same period in 2008, said Harrods Estates, paying an average 3.9 million (Dh22.8m) per single transaction.

"Clearly the Arab Spring has sent buyers rushing to London, which has always been favoured by affluent Middle Eastern nationals," said Shirley Humphrey, the agent's director, speaking on a Harrods marketing tour of the Middle East.

"One of the reasons that the number of buyer inquiries from the UAE may be so high is that wealthy individuals from Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Iran and Libya are flocking to the UAE as a safe haven and investing in London from here."

Knight Frank, another British estate agent, this month reported that internet traffic from the Middle East to listings of upmarket central London homes on its website rose 10 per cent in the year to October.

"We are seeing no trailing off in demand for high-end properties," said Ms Humphrey. "We are getting questions about it, but it is not putting investors off."

lbarnard@thenational.ae

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