Candy brothers target Shanghai in Asia push

HONG KONG Sat Nov 26, 2011 3:41pm GMT

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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Of the apartments sold in the last year at One Hyde Park in London, which houses the most expensive flat in Britain, 30 percent have gone to Asian buyers, two-thirds of whom were from mainland China, said one of the two brothers behind the property.

British brothers Nick and Christian Candy, both in their 30s, have made a name for themselves as developers of luxury properties -- and for their lavish lifestyles. Nick Candy, speaking in Hong Kong before taking a helicopter to Macau, is chief executive of London-based Candy & Candy, which specialises in interior design and construction management. His Monaco-based brother runs CPC, a developer and property-investment company.

"Mainland Chinese money for the first time is really hitting the shores of the UK," said Nick Candy in an interview with Reuters. "We've seen the biggest growth in the last year from this region."

As a result, One Hyde Park had paid back its 1.15 billion pound loan to Eurohypo AG EUROHY.UL, Candy said, and had sold 1.4 billion pounds of real estate.

Of 80 apartments in the project, 62 had sold, he added.

"In a market which has been pretty bad for most country's banks in the last three years, I think that's a success story," he said.

Candy said that he and his brother Christian were now working on a development in Shanghai being designed by Zaha Hadid, part of their plan to target Asia for expansion.

The project was a mixed-use development incorporating residential, shopping and office space spanning 1.2 kilometres of riverside land, Candy said.

He added that for now, the plan was simply known as "Project X," declining to give details.

"We're looking at stuff all over the region; Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing," Candy said. "Anything that can sustain a high-end resi, high-end retail, high-end commercial development would interest us."

Candy said he felt the British press had been keen to criticise One Hyde Park after its lavish launch.

"It's had its critics, no doubt about it, but I think we've proven most of the critics wrong," Candy said. "We've achieved record prices, we've got great retail tenants, and we have sold the stores at good yields."

One Hyde Park was built by Project Grande (Guernsey) Ltd, a joint venture between Christian Candy's company CPC, and Waterknights, a company owned by the prime minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani.

"It's easy to criticise something," Candy said, admitting that there had been errors in the design, such as omitting a crèche, and that catering to the needs of 25 nationalities and a variety of religions had also been difficult.

"We've made mistakes," Candy admitted. "I make mistakes every single day."

He said more feng shui, a Chinese system of geomancy, would be incorporated into future designs to appeal to Chinese buyers.

One Hyde Park houses the most expensive apartment ever sold in Britain, purchased by Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov. The 136.4-million-pound purchase price is all the more remarkable since the property was sold "shell and core," with no fittings. The new owner is decorating it at an expected cost of another 40 million pounds.

Nick Candy, whose company Candy & Candy was development manager and interior designer for the development, said the project had just signed its first buyer from Macau.

Sales to Chinese buyers at One Hyde Park corroborate recent research showing Chinese buyers are leading a legion of cash-rich property investors moving into the British capital.

Candy said he got the idea for the Rolex store at One Hyde Park from a similar store in Hong Kong, run by the family of his friend, nightclub owner Gilbert Yeung.

"You can learn a lot from the Asian market," he said.

A second retail property, occupied by a store selling McLaren's new sports car, recently sold to a Hong Kong businessman for a price brokers set at 11.5 million pounds.

The third and last store at One Hyde Park would shortly go on the market, Candy said, and was expected to command a similar price. It is being fitted out by Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank PJSC ADIB.AD, which was waiting for licensing to operate in Britain, with an official opening set for the new year.

(Reporting by Alex Frew McMillan; Editing by Chris Lewis)

(This story corrects ownership of Waterknights and removes reference to sales in 12th paragraph)

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