UK construction industry shrinks for the first time in 11 months – PMI

( via — Mon, 4th March 2019) London, UK —

LONDON, March 4 (Reuters) – Britain’s construction industry reported the first fall in activity in almost a year last month, as Brexit uncertainty and a slow housing market delayed new building projects.

The IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.5 in February from January’s reading of 50.6, the first time the index has been below the 50-mark that separates growth from contraction since unusually icy weather in March 2018.

The last time the reading was below 50 for reasons unrelated to the weather was in September 2017, and February’s number was at the bottom end of economists’ forecasts in a Reuters poll.

“The UK construction sector moved into decline during February as Brexit anxiety intensified and clients opted to delay decision-making on building projects,” IHS Markit economist Tim Moore said.

Britain remains at risk of leaving the European Union on March 29 with no transitional arrangements, though last week Prime Minister Theresa May said lawmakers would be able to vote to delay Brexit for a short period if they continued to reject the deal she agreed with Brussels last year.

Builders said they were experiencing some of the longest delays in getting construction materials since 2015, due to transport shortages caused by manufacturers stocking up on materials in case a no-deal Brexit disrupts imports.

Construction projects such as new homes and office space were also being put on hold as Brexit uncertainty slowed commercial decision-making and the housing market weakened, with knock-on effects for hiring.

Although Bank of England data last week showed a pick-up in the number of mortgages approved at the start of 2019, house prices have been flat over the past couple of months, according to figures from mortgage lender Nationwide Building Society.

Last year construction output rose by the smallest amount since 2012, up just 0.7 percent according to official data.

Construction makes up only 6 percent of Britain’s economy, but its volatility often means it has an outsize effect on the quarterly growth rate of the whole economy.

Reporting by David Milliken

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Source: Evan Carmichael

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‘Brexit-proof’ property areas where house prices are forecast to rise

( via – – Fri, 22nd Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

The recent slump in house price growth has been blamed by many experts largely on the political and economic uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote – but there are some areas of the country that have bucked this trend. 

According to Nationwide’s latest house price index, house price growth “ground to a halt” in January, with prices just 0.1pc higher than the same time last year. Estate agent Jeremy Leaf said the figures confirmed a market “struggling to weather the Brexit storm, but not collapsing”.

While some areas in London and south-east England have seen considerable falls in growth since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, the opposite is true for many other regions across the country. 

Buying agent Garrington Property Finders analysed Land Registry data to identify the regions in England and Wales that have weathered the Brexit storm, and are likely to see future house price rises. Its research is based on two determining factors of future appreciation – property affordability (house price to earnings ratio) and the pace of job creation.

It found that property increased in price in East Staffordshire in the West Midlands by 10pc in 2018, four times higher than the UK average of 2.5pc. It also has a good ratio of affordability in the area and a high employment growth rate, making it the top “Brexit-proof” property hotspot in the country.

The area's robust economy means jobs are being created at a prodigious rate, with local employment growing by 9.4pc in 2018, almost eight times faster than the national rate of 1.2pc, while its affordability ratio is 7.7. 

The second-placed market in the ranking was Rochdale in Greater Manchester, which clocked price growth of 8.7pc and employment growth of 7pc in 2018, yet has a good affordability ratio of 5.6, second only to Liverpool’s 5.1 ratio.

All 10 areas in the league table have an affordability ratio – the average property price divided by the average resident’s salary – lower than the England and Wales average of 7.77 (London’s is 12.36, according to the ONS), and a rate of job creation in excess of the national average.

Derby, Derbyshire, Salford, Greater Manchester, and Bassetlaw, in Nottinghamshire, round out the top five, with property price growth in 2018 of 7.7pc, 6.9pc and 6.8pc respectively. 

Jonathan Hopper, managing director of Garrington, said that while at a national level the property market is cooling to the point of inertia – with average prices rising at the slowest pace for five years – a number of hot micro-markets have emerged that completely buck the trend.

Mr Hopper said this includes the Midlands which currently has a “combination of Brexit-defying economic momentum, good affordability and, above all, strong future growth potential.”

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) has previously predicted that national house price growth will come to a “standstill” this year, but a supply shortage “will negate outright falls”. 

Halifax’s Russell Galley is more bullish, however. “On the basis that it is still most likely that the UK exits the EU with a form of withdrawal agreement and transition period”, he said that he expects annual house price growth nationally to be between 2pc and 4pc by the end of the year.

By  Sophie Christie 

Sir Philip Green drops legal action against the Daily Telegraph

( via – – Mon, 28th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Sir Philip Green has dropped legal action against the Daily Telegraph, which prevented the newspaper publishing details of allegations of sexual harassment and racist behaviour.

Last October, the Telegraph published a story saying a prominent businessman had been accused of harassment.

The Topshop boss was later named as the businessman in the House of Lords.

As a result, Sir Philip said he had been the subject of “vicious” and “untrue” personal attacks in the media.

The statement also said that Sir Philip is “not guilty of unlawful sexual or racist behaviour”.

Sir Philip's representative would not say why the businessman had dropped the legal action.

When the allegations first emerged, Sir Philip acknowledged there had “been some banter”, but said it had “never been offensive”.

At the heart of the issue are non-disclosure agreements signed by five individuals.

In his statement, Sir Philip said that the Telegraph had helped break those agreements and threatened to make the information public.

In doing so, the newspaper had exposed the individuals to “significant risk and future legal action”, the statement said.

It also said: “Due to the ongoing confidentiality obligations and injunction still in place, Arcadia and Sir Philip cannot comment on the detail of any allegations, but confirm that any grievances are treated with the utmost seriousness and are investigated thoroughly in accordance with best practice.”


Sir Philip used to be known as the king of the High Street.

He built a fortune from a retail empire that included Topshop, BHS, Burton and Miss Selfridge.

He sold BHS in March 2015 for £1, but it went into administration a year later, leaving a £571m hole in its pension fund.

He later agreed a £363m cash settlement with the Pensions Regulator to plug the gap.

In a report into the collapse of BHS, MPs called the episode “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.

He and his wife Cristina are estimated by Forbes to be worth £3.8bn.

10 Amazing Mansions Nobody Wants To Buy

Source: The Richest

Despite popular belief, a mansion is not always more valuable if it was owned by a famous person. In fact, this ownership can actually decrease the property’s value. Studies show that the house of a famous person lasts an average of 36 days longer on the market than that of a non-famous person. The reasons for this are paradoxical. It seems that the exact reasons why someone would want to buy a famous mansion are exactly what turn people off from owning said mansion: there’s too much baggage.

Debenhams rescue attempt could cost more than 10,000 jobs

( via – – Mon, 14th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

A daring rescue attempt being drawn up to save Debenhams from going bust could cost more than 10,000 job losses, dealing the biggest blow to the high street since the collapse of BHS.

The Daily Telegraph understands that the chain has earmarked as many as 90 of its high street stores for closure, more than half the current total, as part of a radical turnaround plan.

Debenhams has 165 shops in the UK and Ireland, and 26,000 employees. It has said publicly that around 50 stores could be jettisoned but the board has quietly identified another 30 to 40 that could be offloaded as it seeks to focus on the most profitable ones.

Nearly 90pc of the chain’s pre-tax earnings are generated from a core of 80 to 90 shops, it is understood. Debenhams declined to comment. BHS imploded in 2016 with the loss of 11,000 jobs.

Debenhams plans to push ahead with a three-stage restructuring program despite a dramatic boardroom coup at the hands of Sports Direct billionaire Mike Ashley, who has amassed a 30pc stake in the retailer.

Ashley and fellow rebel shareholder Landmark Capital ousted chairman Ian Cheshire and chief executive Sergio Bucher last week. Cheshire has been replaced by veteran retailer Terry Duddy, while Bucher will continue to run the company without a board seat.

The City fears that Ashley’s extraordinary move could deal a hammer blow to Debenhams’ survival prospects. In The Sunday Telegraph, an insider accused the entrepreneur of “management by hand grenade”. Crispin Odey, who has a 5pc short against Debenhams, said it was “coming to an end”.

The company’s share price hit a record low of 3.8p, while its bonds have crashed to just 49p in the pound.

Bucher is expected to table a formal, three-stage turnaround proposal with lenders in the coming weeks. The complex plans will begin with a loan refinancing and partial debt-for-equity swap; followed by the attempted closure of up to half its stores; and a fundraising from existing shareholders.

However, there are significant hurdles to overcome. Around half of Debenhams’ bank loans have been hoovered up by American hedge funds, while any store closures will need to be approved by landlords.

Ashley, meanwhile, could attempt to block the refinancing, which would almost certainly be fatal. Retail footfall fell 2.6pc in December.

The fate of HMV will be decided this week when a deadline for rescue bids expires, Sky News reported.

By  Ben Marlow 

UK House price growth slows to weakest in almost six years

( via – – Fri, 4th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

UK house prices grew at an annual pace of 0.5% in December, the Nationwide building society has said, the slowest annual rate since February 2013.

The lender says uncertainty over the economic outlook appears to be undermining confidence in the market.

London and surrounding areas saw a small fall in house prices in 2018.

Northern Ireland saw the biggest house price rises, up 5.8%. Prices in Wales climbed 4%, in Scotland they were up 0.9% and in England they rose 0.7%.

December's growth rate, based on its own mortgage data, was a marked slowdown from the annual pace of 1.9% recorded by the Nationwide in November.

The Nationwide's chief economist, Robert Gardner, told the BBC the severity of the slowdown was unexpected: “It is a little bit surprising that house price growth has slowed as much as it has in the last month or so.

“It seems to be the uncertain economic outlook that is really weighing on buyer sentiment. I think once that lifts then things should start to pick up to normal levels of about 2%.”

He said a lot of it “depends on how we get through this Brexit uncertainty”.

Chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, Samuel Tombs, said the slowdown was striking, but the overall outlook for the market was relatively benign: “The hefty month-to-month fall in house prices in December [of 0.7%] – the biggest Nationwide has reported since August 2011 – brings an end to a weak year for the housing market.

“While the supply of homes for sale also has dwindled, the balance of demand and supply has shifted in buyers' favour. That said, we continue to doubt that a sustained period of falling house prices is likely.”

He said that assuming MPs back some form of Brexit deal, with a subsequent recovery in consumers' confidence, prices were likely to pick up to grow by 2% this year.

Nicholas Finn, executive director of Garrington Property Finders, said: “At one extreme we are seeing a surge in the numbers of opportunistic, frequently cash, buyers emerging to snap up homes at large discounts.”

“Meanwhile thousands of would-be sellers are instead hunkering down and waiting until things improve before putting their home on the market.”

Separate figures from the Bank of England showed that mortgage approvals for house purchases fell in November, and are now at half the level of 15 years ago.

Regional differences

The Nationwide said that house prices in London and the surrounding areas, such as Berkshire, had fallen by 0.8% and 1.4% in the past year.

However, outside these areas, each nation and English region – based on Nationwide's local mortgage data – recorded annual house price growth.

In addition to steady price growth in Northern Ireland and Wales, the East Midlands also saw prices increase by 4%.

“With prices in both inner and outer London falling, the capital bears a share of responsibility for dragging down the national pace of growth,” Mr Finn said.

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Source: Alux

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The Billionaire Still Betting Big on The Malls of The Future


Rick Caruso won't tell you that traditional retail is dying because he doesn't believe it. The creator of The Grove, LA's famous shopping and dining destination, discussed the state of retail in America and why he is one of few developers still betting big on the malls of the future.



London’s Grosvenor House hotel sold to Qatari firm for undisclosed sum

( via – – Wed, 7th Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Katara Holdings which owns the Savoy and Connaught pays undisclosed sum for hotel on Park Lane

A Qatari state-backed company is to buy the Grosvenor House hotel on London’s Park Lane, the latest in a string of acquisitions of the capital’s trophy assets.

Katara Holdings, which is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), has bought Grosvenor House for an undisclosed price from private American property investment firm Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, Reuters first reported.

Ashkenazy bought the Mayfair property, which overlooks Hyde Park, in 2017. The firm had previously owned a stake in New York’s Plaza, for which Qatar paid a reported $600m earlier this year.

The Qatari fund, which is estimated to have more than $300bn in total assets, owns London’s luxury Savoy and Connaught hotels, the Harrods department storeand the Shard, London’s tallest skyscraper, as well as luxury hotels across the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The oil-rich state has been boosted by higher oil prices during the past year and a recent Qatari buying spree also includes stakes in Volkswagen and Glencore. The purchases have been made in spite of a blockade on the country by Middle Eastern rivals led by Saudi Arabia.

Ashkenazy did not respond to a request for comment. The QIA declined to comment.

By Jasper Jolly


Dubai’s Truly Remarkable Sustainable City Housing Development


An amazing day at the Sustainable City, a housing development in Dubai with 3,500 people already living there and it's still not quite finished.This truly is a remarkable achievement, a stark lesson to building contractors the world over. It's not more expensive to build and it's hugely cheaper and more efficient to live in.



Housing market unaccessible to 40% of Young adults – IFS

( via– Mon, 8th Oct 2018) London, Uk – –

The IFS says average house prices have surged 173% over the past 20 years, when a cheap home was in reach for 90% of young adults.

About 40% of young adults would not be able to buy one of the cheapest homes in their area – even if they managed to save a 10% deposit, research suggests.

Back in 1996, a property would have been in reach for 90% of 25 to 34-year-olds as long as they had a 10% deposit and borrowed four-and-a-half times their salary.

Fast forward to 2016, just 60% in this age range can do the same – leaving many thousands locked out of the market.

Researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies found the situation is worse for aspiring homeowners in London, where just one in three young adults could borrow enough to buy one of the cheapest homes in their area with a 10% deposit.

Average house prices in England have surged by 173% over the past two decades, compared with a meagre 19% rise in the real incomes of young adults over the same period, the report claimed.

In 2016, about 50% of young adults would have needed to save more than six months of their post-tax income to raise a 10% deposit for a cheap home in their area. The IFS estimates just 10% would have had to do the same 20 years ago.

Polly Simpson, a research economist at the IFS who co-authored the report, said: “Big increases in house prices compared to incomes over the last two decades mean that it is increasingly difficult for young adults to get on the housing ladder, even if they do manage to save a 10% deposit.

“Many young adults cannot borrow enough to buy a cheap home in their area, let alone an average-priced one. These trends have increased inequality between older and younger generations, and within the younger generation too.”

The IFS says that easing planning restrictions would help to increase levels of home ownership while reducing property prices and rents – giving relief to some Britons who will never own a property.

Its senior research economist Jonathan Cribb said: “The most economically productive and wealthiest parts of England – London and the South East – are those with the most restrictive planning constraints.

“It is unsurprising that these areas have also experienced the biggest house price increases. Increasing the responsiveness of construction to house prices is a necessary part of the solution, particularly in these areas.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, responded: “This government is committed to helping more people get on the housing ladder and last year saw the highest number of first time buyers for over a decade.

“Through our Help to Buy scheme and the cut in stamp duty for first time buyers we are helping restore the dream of home ownership for a new generation.

“Over 1.1 million properties have been built since 2010 and our targeted investment and planning reform will deliver more of the homes communities need.”



Travelodge £100m initiative to target conference centres


( via – – Fri, 5th Oct 2018) London, Uk – –

Travelodge is ramping up its expansion into the business market, with a £100m initiative to target sites near major conference centres.

The budget hotel chain has identified 10 locations across the country, from London’s Olympia to Glasgow’s SEC Centre, where it is “actively looking” to run new hotels.

The company said the extra hotels would create around 300 jobs.

Founded in 1985, Travelodge claims to be Britain’s first budget hotel chain. It operates 567 sites across UK, Spain and Ireland and welcomes around 19m customers each year. Historically associated with leisure travellers, more than half of the company’s customers are now business customers.

On Thursday it opened a 68-room hotel next to the Telford International Conference Centre, and now operates close to the 20 most popular conference and events centres in the country.

Travelodge is looking for third party investors to fund the 10 new hotel sites. Other locations include the ACC Liverpool & Echo Arena, Coventry’s Ricoh Arena and the Queen Elizabeth Centre in London.

The UK events sector contributes £42bn to the economy, according to research by Eventbrite.

Travelodge property managing director Paul Harvey said: “Due to the growing volume of events taking place across the country, there is a shortage of good quality and low cost accommodation close to event venues.

“Our hotels located close to conference and event centres are literally booked out as soon as event dates are released and value seeking attendees will even book into a Travelodge up to 20 miles from the event venue.”

Despite what chief executive Peter Gowers called “economic uncertainty”, Travelodge posted an 8pc growth in first-half revenues last month. Revenue per available room, a key industry metric, rose 3.1pc to £38.68.

Mr Gowers said the company “continued to outperform the midscale and economy market segment”.

By Oliver Gill



Multifamily Housing REIT to compete against buy-to-let landlords with £175m IPO

( via – – Wed, 12 Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

An investment trust aiming to compete against buy-to-let landlords in the booming private rental market will fire the starting gun on its £175m London IPO on Wednesday, The Daily Telegraph understands.

Multifamily Housing REIT is thought to be planning to use £70m of the cash to buy an initial seed portfolio of around 650 flats homes and five commercial premises across 22 housing blocks, mostly in the north of England, the midlands and the south-west.

The trust, set up by Harwood Capital’s real estate arm, will be the first listed vehicle to focus exclusively on pre-built rental homes.

The private rental market has ballooned in recent years amid a fall in home ownership and is mostly still in the hands of non-professional buy-to-let landlords.

It has begun to attract institutional investment from the likes of Legal & General and M&G but mostly in the form of so-called build-to-rent developments, which are generally targeted at upwardly mobile urban professionals willing to pay top dollar for the latest mod cons.

Multifamily Housing will buy existing rental homes rather than building them itself and is understood to be targeting the more affordable end of the market.

It plans to raise the cash by selling 175m shares at £1 each.

The REIT will be chaired by Nick Jopling, who previously ran Grainger, one of the UK’s largest professional landlords. David Lis, formerly head of equities at Aviva Investors, will also be on the board.

It has already identified a £422m pipeline of potential investments and is aiming to generate a dividend yield worth 4pc per year from the date of its admission, rising to 5pc from March next year.

Harwood was spun out of JO Hambro in 2011 and is still led by its former parent company’s founder Christopher Mills and now has around £4.5bn of funds under management.

By Jack Torrance



House prices in London’s overvalued market expected to fall – Reuters poll

Flickr/Megan Trace

( via — Wed, 29th Aug 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – House prices in London’s overvalued market will fall this year and next, a Reuters poll of analysts and experts predicted, and will tumble if Britain fails to reach a deal ahead of its departure from the European Union.

The quarterly poll of around 30 housing market specialists, taken in the past week, said house prices in the capital – where foreign investors have previously fuelled skyrocketing prices – will fall 1.6 percent this year and 0.1 percent next.

“Central London is tanking because the traditional international buyers are staying away – and the quantum of buyers is falling. A disorderly Brexit will exacerbate this trend,” said Tony Williams at property consultancy Building Value.

Uncertainty over how Brexit negations pan out has already spooked foreign investors. When asked what effect a disorderly departure would have on London prices, responses ranged from “short-term fall” to “damaging” to “disaster”.

“In the short term the additional uncertainty will disproportionately affect London, causing the value of some properties, particularly high value properties, to fall further,” said Ray Boulger at mortgage broker John Charcol.

Britain is due to leave the EU in March and sterling fell to a near one-year low against the euro on Tuesday amid no-deal angst. A weaker currency should make UK houses more attractive to foreign buyers but Brexit uncertainty is keeping them away.

When asked about the likelihood of a significant correction in London’s housing market before the end of 2019 the specialists gave a relatively high median of 29 percent. The highest was 75 percent.

But that might not be a bad thing – certainly for first-time buyers.

When asked to rate the level of London house prices on a scale of one to ten, where one is extremely cheap and ten extremely expensive, the median response was nine. Nationally they were rated seven.

“The weight of evidence suggests that housing is overvalued once more,” said Hansen Lu at Capital Economics.

In August the average asking price for a home nationally was 301,973 pounds and in London a whopping 609,205 pounds, according to property website Rightmove, putting home ownership out of the reach of many – despite historically low borrowing costs.

The Bank of England pushed interest rates above their financial crisis lows this month but signalled it was in no hurry to raise them further. It will add another 25 basis points in the second quarter of next year, taking Bank Rate to 1.0 percent, another Reuters poll predicted.

So with mortgage rates staying low house prices are expected to increase nationally by 2.0 percent this year and next – slower than inflation – and then 2.3 percent in 2020.

“We see little upward or downward pressure on house prices at current near-zero interest rates. However, risks lie substantially to the downside,” said Andrew Brigden at Fathom Consulting.

“Were interest rates to return to pre-crisis levels or higher, which may prove necessary if there were a sharp fall in sterling after a General Election, for example, then house prices could fall by around 40 percent.”

By Jonathan Cable




Persimmon post 13pc rise in profits despite slowdown in housing market

( via – – Tue, 21 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Housebuilder Persimmon sought to reassure investors worried about a slowdown in the housing market after posting a rise in profits and selling more than 250 extra homes in the first half of the year.

Jeff Fairburn, chief executive, said the FTSE 100 company had “continued to experience good levels of customer interest” even during the typically quiet summer period as low unemployment and a “competitive mortgage market” helped spur demand.

Pre-tax profits rose 13pc to £516m in the six months to June after Persimmon sold 8,072 houses, 4pc more than in the same period last year. Revenues grew 5pc to £1.8bn.

The housebuilder has benefitted from the Government’s Help to Buy scheme, which offers first-time buyers financial support to buy new-build homes. It has also been helped by a relatively low exposure to the London market, which has seen a slowdown in recent months.

Persimmon’s bottom line was also bolstered by a 1pc increase in sales prices to £215,000 and tighter control of costs, which helped stretch its gross margin from 28.9pc to 30.8pc.

The company was embroiled in a fierce row with investors and politicians earlier in the year after it emerged Mr Fairburn was in line for as much as £100m because of a non-capped bonus scheme linked to its share price.

The debacle cost the jobs of Persimmon’s former chairman Nicholas Wrigley and the head of its remuneration committee Jonathan Davie. Mr Fairburn and other senior bosses who benefited from the scheme eventually agreed to hand back £50m.

By Jack Torrance