Expats jump euro ship and swim to UK

Tuesday, May 1, 2012. Ivan Radford @themovechannel

George Kapetanios. Silene Sashugba. Alexander Mamut. They are from different countries but they have one thing in common: they have all come to England. George, a former restaurant owner, jumped ship as the Greek debt crisis spread to find long-term financial security for his family in the UK. And according to new reports, property investors are doing the same.

Photo credit: Gary Tanner

George Kapetanios. Silene Sashugba. Alexander Mamut. They're all from different countries but they have one thing in common: they have all come to England.

Kapetanios, a former restaurant owner, jumped ship as the Greek debt crisis spread, leaving his stepson, Thanos, at home to study, while he found a new home with his wife, Katerina, and younger daughter.  The 23 year old student continues to attend university in Greece, living on approximately 6 euros per day.

"I weighed 97 kg but have lost weight, I'm now almost 70," he told Reuters. "I can't afford to order food or eat out."

Silene Sashugba, an acupuncturist from France living in London, is already ahead of the curve, as a growing number of French expats flock to the capital.

Indeed, an estimated 350,000 of London residents are now from France, with the UK's multi-cultural outlook and employment opportunities attracting many from Europe. But the upcoming French election threatens to send even more fleeing across the English Channel.

"They argue about things like halal meat. It's populist nonsense. The real problem is the economic crisis and they're not saying anything convincing about how to sort it out," Sashugba told Reuters last week.

Estate agent WA Ellis agrees: "We may well see an influx of French investors and tenants if Francois Hollande is elected President on 6th May.  He plans to raise upper income tax to 45%, bring more people under the annual wealth levy, and introduce a hotly contested 75% super tax band for anyone whose annual income exceeds £1million," Richard Barber, partner in residential sales, told Property Talk Live.

"London is already a favourite destination for the French with the Lycées brimming full, so it will be interesting to see the result of the election."

Alexander Mamut's journey, on the surface, appears very different. The Russian billionaire bought the bookseller Waterstones at the end of last year, in the process becoming the new figurehead of overseas investment in the UK.

Mamut, who now plans to open a new Russian bookshop (Slova) within the chain's flagship Piccadilly Circus store, describes his £53m acquisition as "a long-term investment", according to The Independent.

And the same is true of the other two international residents, fleeing the wider turmoil of the eurozone to cash in on the safe haven status of the UK. 2012 is a year when the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympics see Britain threatening to steal the global limelight but for these three, the country's appeal has nothing to do with the short-term sporting event.

Kapetanios now works part-time at a Greek restaurant in London. It is far from his successful life back home, but stepson Thanos, who plans to join them soon, approves: "My parents' move was not a bad one, at least they make some money there."

Investors are taking the same approach, turning to UK real estate for long-term profits. Indeed, the most active market in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the first quarter of 2012 was UK hotel investment, according to Jones Lang LaSalle's latest report. But not just in London: savvy investors are cashing in on commercial property all around Britain.

Ray Withers, CEO of Property Frontiers, praises the country's regional commercial property sector:

"For some time now, investors have believed that London is the only location in the UK to consider making a successful hotel investment. This is quite simply not true. As with any investment, it's about looking at the fundamentals of supply and demand and for this very reason we have identified Yorkshire and in particular the city of York, with its 7 million annual visitors and shortage of hotel rooms, as an opportunity seriously worth exploring."

With tourism in Britain predicted to grow annually by up to 12 per cent, 2012 has been described as a "bumper year" for the UK by one holiday homes agent.

George Kapetanios, Silene Sashugba and Alexander Mamut will be hoping that it lasts for even longer.

Looking for a bumper year?

Browse our listings of serviced apartments, luxury hotels and other UK commercial property:


Author - Dan Johnson


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