x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Taste for luxury lives on in London

One Hyde Park, the most expensive apartment development in London history, is set to open next Monday

While global economies sputter and housing markets languish, a London developer backed by Qatar is preparing to open the most expensive apartment complex in the city's history.

One Hyde Park, located in Knightsbridge on the edge of Hyde Park, a short walk from Harrods department store, offers 86 apartments with a starting price of about £6 million (Dh35.2m). Last year, a penthouse sold for £140m, a record for the UK.

On Monday, the project will formally begin handing over keys to owners, defying critics who speculated it would be delayed or cancelled because of the economic crisis. An exclusive party for 350 guests is planned for tonight night at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, which is linked to the apartments. Every step of the project's development has attracted attention and speculation that its opulence and prices might be over the top, even by London standards. Instead, more than £900m worth of apartments have been sold, the developers say.

"There are a number of extremely wealthy people in the world and they want the best," said Ed Lewis, the London head of new homes for the property agent Savills. "They will add [a One Hyde Park apartment] to their collection as they would add another jet or another yacht."

One Hyde Park is a joint project of CPC Group, based in Guernsey and led by Christian Candy, half of the high-profile Candy brothers luxury development team, and Waterknights, a company owned by the Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani.

From eye-scanners in the lifts and panic rooms in the apartments, to a private tunnel connecting apartments to the Mandarin Oriental, the project has focused on the highest end of the luxury market. Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the retail spaces have been reserved for a Rolex outlet, a showroom for the new McLaren prototype, and, according the London press, a branch of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. A spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment. Sales in the project have been cloaked in secrecy. No price list was ever issued. Sales agents and clients were required to sign confidentiality agreements to view apartments. And developer representatives have steadfastly refused to discuss even the nationalities of buyers.

Apartments in One Hyde Park have attracted prices averaging about £6,000 a square foot, the highest ever paid for new apartments in the city, according to sales agents. The previous records were set by The Knightsbridge, a nearby development where apartments cost between £3,500 and £4,500 a square foot.

Somewhere between 50 and 60 per cent of the units have been sold, local agents speculate.

Luxury properties in Knightsbridge and other high-end London neighbourhoods have performed better than the general market. Prices in prime central London are up 26 per cent since March 2009, according to Knight Frank's index of the district. Overall, prices in London rose only about 2.7 per cent, according to the Nationwide housing index.

International buyers including investors from Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Asia are fuelling high-end sales, agents say. "It's truly a global market," said Shaun Drummond, the sales manager of the Knightsbridge area for Harrods Estates.

Ninety per cent of Mr Drummond's clients in Knightsbridge are from outside the UK. And the "vast majority" are paying cash, he said

International buyers view London as a stable, safe market for money, agents say. And the continued weakness of the pound, which is trading against the dollar 20 per cent below 2008 levels, has also helped to stimulate interest in London property.

"A lot of it is a currency trade," said Rupert des Forges, the head of the flat department for Knight Frank. "It's driven a lot of interest in One Hyde Park."