Page last updated at 16:04 GMT, Sunday, 4 May 2008 17:04 UK

UK property lures India's super-rich

By Neil Heathcote
BBC News, Mumbai

UK developers are heading to India in search of wealthy new customers for their luxury flats. But why would anyone invest in London's wobbly property markets? Because the super-rich still have plenty of cash to spend.

Nicolas Candy on how the credit crunch will not hinder his property sales

One of the world's most expensive homes is currently being built in Mumbai for Reliance head Mukesh Ambani.

His personal skyscraper will boast six storeys just for parking cars, and is expected to cost nearly $2bn by the time it is complete.

It's this spectacular level of wealth that is being generated in the country that has caught the eye of developers overseas.

Nick Candy, one half of the design and development firm Candy & Candy, is in Mumbai to drum up interest for his own super-luxury project, One Hyde Park.

The central London project is offering apartments - to the right kind of customer - for an average of 20m.

Mr Candy is a man used to dealing with the fabulously rich. But he says, "I'm flabbergasted by the amount of wealth in India. It's staggering."

Stable at the top

Candy & Candy specialises in strictly top-end property. Its customer base is a roll-call of the super rich: royals, entrepreneurs, private company bosses.

All with a taste for the best, all very discreet, and many from the developing petro-states - Russia, the Gulf, Kazakhstan.

One Hyde Park development in London (artist's impression)
Construction of One Hyde Park will not be finished until 2010

It's now looking to open an office in India.

But why would Indian investors want to put money into London's property market now the boom is over? And with the financial markets still suffering the fallout of the US sub-prime crisis?

"It's going to be very tough in America, and I think the UK will probably mirror it six months later," admits Mr Candy.

But, he says, this applies only to properties under 2m where buyers need to borrow the money.

There, you can expect "serious reductions in prices", according to Mr Candy - "and you're looking at a lot more than 10%."

For top-end property - costing more than 5m - he thinks prices will be stable. There are not many people who can afford that level of luxury - and in London, there are still very few properties for them to buy.

Besides, says Mr Candy, "they've still got huge amounts of wealth. Maybe it's come down from $1bn to $500m - or if they've been very unlucky, it's $50m. But it's still huge amounts of wealth."

Old-money roots

India now has more billionaires than any other country in Asia - 36 at the last count. Together they are worth nearly $200bn.

It's a testament to the rapid growth of the South Asian economy, which shows little signs of flagging.

Many of those super-rich are now keen to invest their wealth around the globe. But the number of self-made entrepreneurs still lags far behind the US.

India's top three richest people are all successful businessmen, but have made their money in old-economy industries, such as oil and property.

And while they have thrived in India's new economy, they have all built their wealth on fortunes inherited from their parents.

India Business Report is broadcast repeatedly every Sunday on BBC World News.

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