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Greek investors 'look to London safe haven'

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11th Nov 11 12:32 pm

Greek investors seeking a safe haven from the debt crisis are increasingly looking to buy up property in London, according to estate agents.

Athens has been engulfed with political turmoil in recent weeks and Greece’s exit from the European single currency is now being openly discussed by European leaders. Some Greeks fear keeping money in their home country could be an error and are looking to pull it out of the eurozone entirely.

London properties seem to be finding favour with Greeks looking to safeguard their money because the stable market offers reliable returns, estate agents have pointed out.

Knight Frank head of residential research Liam Bailey, speaking to AFP, said: “Greeks have been a part of the central London market for quite some time, but about 18 months ago their numbers began to increase.”

Richard Barber is a partner at WA Ellis, an estate agent which focuses on affluent areas such as Knightsbridge and Chelsea and he believes interest has heightened in the past few weeks as the Greek crisis deepened. “They’d rather have their money in prime London property than sitting in Greek bonds,” said Barber. “I think London property has a reputation for being a safe haven.”

Greeks now account for about 1.5 per cent of all London property sales of more than £2m, up from the typical level of 0.5 per cent seen until recently, said Bailey. In the past 12 months, Greeks have spent more than £250m on property transactions. Bailey said: “Greeks are not dominant but they are relatively important at the moment.”

Russians account for 6.5 per cent of property purchases worth more than £2m in London, while people from France, Italy and Hong Kong each are behind approximately three per cent of purchases.

The London property market used to interest Greeks who were keen to capitalise on the weak pound, but they have been increasingly turning to the UK to move money out of Greece as confidence evaporates. Bailey said “it’s become more the capital flight issue” in recent months. He added: “You’ve got people in Greece with a lot of assets who are looking to put those outside of Greece and outside the eurozone at the current time.”

Bailey said he expects Greeks to continue to look to London as a safe haven for the foreseeable future. He said: “Until there’s some sort of sense of clarity of where the eurozone issue goes in Greece, that sort of trend will continue.”

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