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Hong Kong property investors remain keen on London

​Chinese investment in London commercial property has more than trebled since before Britain voted to leave the European Union.

By Jamie Fletcher | Published: 21st August 2017 Business

While others have pulled back from British property following last year's Brexit referendum, investors largely from Hong Kong are snapping up the British capital's best-known skyscrapers including the "Cheesegrater" and "Walkie Talkie".

In the first six months of 2017 Chinese investors spent 3.96 billion pounds ($5.10 billion) onLondon commercial property according to data from the CBRE real estate group, the highest amount on record and outpacing the 2.69 billion pounds spent in the whole of 2016.

Hong Kong accounted for 92 percent of the Chinese investment, according to the Knight Frank agency. Hong Kong food conglomerate Lee Kum Kee is set to pay 1.28 billion pounds later this month for 20 Fenchurch Street - the 34 storey skyscraper known as the Walkie Talkie - a record for an office building in Britain.

With Beijing cracking down on foreign deals by mainland companies, investors there are instead using Hong Kong as a conduit for overseas deals. China's state planner announced on Friday that the country will strengthen rules to defuse risks for domestic companies investing abroad and curb "irrational" overseas investment.

However, Hong Kong-based investors are more significant players.

"Deals from mainland China already make up a smaller proportion of the activity from the region, with Hong Kong investors most active," said Anthony Duggan, head of capital markets research at Knight Frank. "We expect that Chinese investors will still look to make strategic real estate purchases that fit within their business plans."

Hong Kong's freedoms, including judicial independence, are constitutionally enshrined under a "one country, two systems" deal struck before Britain returned the territory to China in 1997. However, concerns have been rising in recent years and an appeals court jailed three leaders of Hong Kong's democracy movement last week.

Tens of thousands protested in Hong Kong on Sunday against the jailing of the young activists, with many demonstrators questioning the independence of the judiciary.

Hong Kong's legal chief has denied any "political motive" in seeking the prison terms.