Britain still top for overseas investment despite Chinese decline in London

Britain still top for overseas investment despite Chinese decline in London (D Andrews for Adfero)

The UK is still the leading destination for overseas investment in real estate in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, according to property consultants Cushman and Wakefield. 

Britain saw 3.9 per cent more investment than Germany, the second-most targeted country in the region.

A notable trend, however, has been for North American investors to be the biggest players in the market, with Asia shrinking back. 

Cushman and Wakefield noted that London has seen the impact of this trend. While investment from nations like Japan and Singapore has held up, Chinese investment is down significantly. 

Investors from the world's most populous country bought £482 million of commercial property in the capital in the first three months of 2018, the lowest quarterly figure since 2015. Last year, by contrast, Chinese and Hong Kong investors spent £7 billion on London property. 

The report has suggested a couple of key factors reducing the level of Chinese involvement in the London market. The most obvious is Brexit, with many potential buyers holding off until there is certainty about the economic implications.

A second factor has been tougher action by regulators in China, which is making it harder for many wealthy investors to take their money out of that country. 

However, the latter factor may not tell the full story. Select property group noted that while investment in London has declined, Chinese money is now pouring into Manchester. It quoted research from China's largest overseas property portal, which found that in the 12 months to January 2018 enquiries for Manchester had risen by more than 255 per cent, but had dropped by 48 per cent for London. 

Chief executive of Carrie Law said: "Manchester currently has the greatest dynamism and momentum in attracting Chinese buyers. It has gained buyer share quickly, while London has not.”

This would suggest the difficulties of getting money out of China cannot account for the drop in London investment, while anything Brexit-related could only relate to specific concerns about London, not the UK as a whole. 

Instead, the simplest explanation may be that, at present, Manchester is seen as an emerging destination of high value. It remains to be seen how long that lasts.