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Jersey-registered companies own 20,000 properties in UK

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MORE than 20,000 properties in England and Wales – worth billions of pounds – are owned by corporate entities registered in Jersey, newly published figures have revealed.

The former headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard, at 8–10 Broadway, which was bought for £370 million, is owned by a Jersey-registered company

An analysis of UK land registry data by the BBC has found that last month at least £55 billion worth of UK property – and probably much more – was owned by overseas trusts and companies across the world.

Around a fifth of the 97,000 overseas-owned properties belonged to Jersey-registered entities, which was the second highest number behind the British Virgin Islands.

According to the BBC’s research, the value of overseas-owned property in London was at least £33.9 billion.

The value of only 28,000 of the properties was publicly available, however, meaning that the actual value of land held offshore was probably much higher.

A breakdown of company ownership revealed that a quarter of the 97,000 properties registered overseas were owned by companies based in the British Virgin Islands. Jersey was the next most common jurisdiction of choice, with more than 20 per cent of the properties owned by companies and trusts registered here.

The two other British Crown Dependencies – Guernsey and the Isle of Man – were next highest, with entities based in the two jurisdictions each owning more than ten per cent of the properties.

A States spokeswoman said that a large number of UK properties were registered in the Island because of specialist financial structures available for investors.

‘The UK property market has historically been a very open and accessible market for international investors. Therefore we are not surprised to see a high level of UK property in foreign ownership,’ she said.

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‘Investors will often use intermediate centres such as Jersey to pool capital with other investors in collective structures such as funds and real-estate investment trusts. Many UK pension funds co-invest in UK property in exactly this way and this helps to diversify their asset allocation across a wider range of projects and opportunities, thereby helping their underlying pensioners of today and tomorrow.’

She added that there was a ‘wide range’ of reasons why investors might choose to hold property offshore.

One of the most expensive properties detailed in the database – out of those which disclosed a value – was owned by a Jersey-registered company.

This was the former headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard, at 8–10 Broadway, which was bought by the Abu Dhabi Financial Group in 2014 for £370 million from the Mayor of London’s office.

The building is officially owned by a Jersey-based company called BL Development, whose registered office is provided by Estera Trust (Jersey) Ltd, which is based at 13–14 Esplanade.

The research carried out by the BBC was based on the data published by the UK land registry last month.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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