Wealthy Indians Buying Their Own British Empire
Sunday April 22,2007 By Jane Slade
INDIAN billionaires are the latest super rich big-spenders pouring into Britain desperate for a slice of prime real estate.
The newcomers are so wealthy they don't mind paying £10million or more for a flat and are now rivalling the Russians and Chinese for high-end homes.
The result is spiralling property prices that estate agents say not even interest rate rises will be able to dampen.
With India destined to become the world's fourth largest economy by 2025, estate agents specialising in multi-million-pound properties have been quick to open special desks to cash in on the spending bonanza.
"It is incredible," says Sheetell Halia who has just launched an India Desk on behalf of Savills estate agents.
"People are not talking in terms of millionaires here but billionaires. My Indian clients are looking to spend upwards of £5million on a home in England."
Jaideep Singh, of top-end estate agents Knight Frank, said: "This year is going to be a very big year for Indian buyers. The rich are getting richer and now the middle-class Indians are coming here to set up offices and buy a place."
Leading the way is steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, Britain's richest man, worth £14billion. He and his wife Usha paid £60million for a 12-bedroom mansion in London's Kensington Palace Gardens in 2004 – now reputed to be worth £70million after he replaced some floors with the same marble used in the Taj Mahal.
The four billionaire Hinduja brothers who head up the global Hinduja Group empire bought a suite of flats in Carlton House Terrace near Buckingham Palace last year for £60million, so they can all stay together when they are in town.
Northwood in west London is being transformed into an Indian Millionaire's Row and Belgravia, the most popular London area, is now the most expensive place in the world, thanks to Indian investment.
Investment banker Laila Sen, 35, works three months a year in London's Canary Wharf. She owns a four-bed house in Mumbai worth £100,000 and is looking for a one-bed flat in Knightsbridge or Kensington.
She said: "I was hoping to find something for about £500,000 but I am now going to have to find £700,000. I have been renting but want to buy something in central London.
"Property is so expensive here but every successful Indian wants to be here. It is what we all want to do. The big difference is that I can live like a queen in Mumbai where property is very cheap." Even Bollywood superstars want a slice of the action.
Actress and Big Brother winner Shilpa Shetty has joined the chase and is looking for a £3.5million flat in Primrose Hill.
Indians are also buying and building large houses for their extended families within the M25 area where there is more space for them to have bigger gardens and access to good schools.
More than 200 of Mumbai's richest families are also expected to descend on an exhibition Savills is hosting in London next week. If it is successful, the agency says it will host further events around the country.
Ms Halia said: "It doesn't matter what happens to interest rates. Rises may be bad news for Brits but it won't affect rich foreigners who are desperate for top quality property over £5million. The trouble is that demand is outstripping supply, which is keeping prices high."
-- My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of the same poverty. - Jorge Louis Borges