London has become the target of mega-rich foreigners who treat it as an investment vehicle and a playground to exhibit their newly found wealth, not always in the manner of the gentry who scoff at such vulgar displays and certainly not in keeping with English tradition.
Chelsea, Knightsbridge and parts of Kensington once known for their quiet and chi-chi places of residence have now been invaded by rowdy king-pins whose way of life contrasts with the serenity of their neighbours.
New research has shown that a £1bn spending spree has created a ‘Qatari quarter’ in Mayfair as the oil-rich Emirate’s royalty pump huge sums of money into London’s real estate. West End property agent Rokstone says that the investment in mansions and apartments by the Qatari royal family, nationals and wealth funds has formed the quarter on the north-west of Mayfair, bordering Park Lane and Hyde Park.
The exclusive district covers almost a quarter of Mayfair’s 279 acres and 4,300 homes, Rokstone suggests, with borders running from South Street and the Dorchester Hotel to North Row and with Duke Street to the east and Grosvenor Square and Carlos Place to the west.
The empire centres on the £200m Dudley House in Park Lane, the London base of Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani and a cousin of the current emir. It also includes the £40m former Brazilian embassy reportedly purchased by the mother of the current ruler, while the ruling family are also believed to own almost £250m of townhouses in Mount Street, Park Street, Davies Street and Curzon Street.
Elsewhere in the upmarket area Qatari Diar, controlled by the Qatari Investment Authority sovereign wealth fund, owns the £500m US embassy in Grosvenor Square and will convert it into luxury homes when the embassy relocates to Nine Elms next year .
Rockstone estimates that buyers from Qatar account for 5% of all Mayfair purchases every year and more than 60% of all buyers for property priced above £10m.
Each year, around £150m worth of Mayfair sales are to buyers from the Middle East, dominated by purchases from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Rockstone’s managing director Becky Fatemi said north-west Mayfair is now ‘the West End address of choice for Qatari and other Gulf state end-user buyers and tenants’.
She added: ‘The oil royals and wealthy families from the Middle East view Mayfair as a luxury village and their favourite place in London, alongside Knightsbridge, for luxury shopping, dining out and leisure. Over two-thirds of Mayfair residents typically eat out three to four times per week and Middle East residents spend on average £1,900 per shop.’
I sincerely hope that Mayfair will retain its village like atmosphere despite its multi-national flavour which hopefully will add colour to it without spoiling its traditional ambience.