The UK received a record number of foreign investment projects in real estate in 2018, totalling a 15-year high of 89, according to fDi Markets, a service from the Financial Times that has monitored cross-border greenfield investment since 2003.
These projects were worth a total of $14.8bn, the highest figure since 2012, and the second highest since 2003. Of that, $6bn went into industrial building construction, and $4.5bn to residential buildings, while 51 out of 89 FDI projects in 2018 went into the co-working office space sub-sector, which has witnessed rapid growth in recent years.
A key influence is Brexit. Adil Taqi, chief financial officer at Dubai real estate developer Damac, says London’s fundamentals remain attractive regardless of its place in the EU. “[More importantly], from a foreign investor’s perspective, [Brexit is an opportunity], with developers [being] more keen to sell than ever before, leading to more availability, and with the pound being cheaper than in recent memory. London’s [much more] affordable,” he added.
This year, Damac invested in building a $175m luxury apartment complex in south-west London, a vote of confidence for the city.
Jonathan Harris, founder of Harris Associates, a UK commercial property agency and asset manager, said that in terms of London’s commercial market in the first quarter of 2019, the UK is seeing fantastic foreign interest, especially from Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the US – all thanks to Brexit.
“Domestic players have been more quiet, [which] has given opportunity to foreign capital. The devalued sterling has also made things cheaper. Whatever Brexit we have, investors know it will be sorted out and London is the capital of Europe. It’s English-speaking and [investors are] comfortable with our laws [taxes and low interest rates],” he added.
Alistair Meadows, JLL’s head of UK Capital Markets, said within real estate acquisitions, foreign interest in the UK remained resilient throughout 2017 and 2018, because global investors tend to think long-term and are, therefore, less preoccupied with Brexit.