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Wealthy Uzbeks Buying Luxury Property In London

Wealthier than her Uzbek neighbors?
A recent study by a London-based real-estate company suggests that Uzbeks became the second-fastest growing nationality in terms of purchasing luxury residential properties in London in the past year, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Liam Bailey, head of residential research at Knight Frank, told RFE/RL that although still small in total numbers, real estate purchases by Uzbek citizens in the past year jumped from a few to 15.

The increase in purchases by Uzbeks marks a 320 percent rise over the previous 12-month period ending in February 2010, according to the recently released Knight Frank Prime Central London Index.

Bailey said several of the Uzbek customers are people "who have access to mineral resources in Uzbekistan, including the gas and oil sectors...who want to diversify their portfolio by buying prime property in central London."

He added that the average value of the residential properties bought by Uzbek citizens is about 2 million pounds ($3.3 million).

Bailey said political and economic uncertainty in Uzbekistan is a factor in wealthy Uzbeks investing their money in safer markets such as London.

He said another reason for the increase in Uzbeks buying property in England is the devaluation of the English pound, something that made property in London cheaper than in previous years.

Bailey said he believes the political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa will further intensify the process of investments being moved to more stable markets.

International buyers in London's luxury real estate market spent 3.9 billion pounds in the year ending in February. The buyers consisted of 61 nationalities, with only the increase in the number of Spanish buyers topping the Uzbeks.