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Sale of property assets has left British economy with unstable foundations

Category : Business

Foreign investment in the London property market outranks even New York, but the free market creates housing bubbles and there’s not much sign of a reciprocal arrangement

London’s newest, and Europe’s tallest, skyscraper will open on Thursday followed by a fanfare of lasers and fireworks. The £2bn Shard, all 1,016 feet of it, will be illuminated to show off the Qataris’ latest trophy in the capital. Already in their shopping basket are Canary Wharf, Harrods and One Hyde Park, the world’s most expensive block of flats.

As financial invasions go, it’s not subtle. Qatar’s investment fund, overseen by the country’s Sandhurst-educated ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, also owns a big slice of supermarket Sainsbury’s, a large slice of the London Stock Exchange, and the Olympic Village – once the athletes have departed.

The Qataris are not the only cash-rich investors with an interest in the UK’s assets. The London Metal Exchange is the subject of a £1.4bn bid from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It also qualifies as a trophy asset because it handles deals covering 80% of global trade in industrial metals.

But the focus of most overseas investors – from the Chinese to the oil-rich states of Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Russia – is property.

Commercial buildings in the City and upmarket properties in plush parts of the capital are the target. It is something that has been going on for 15

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