Britain's property elite grew richer at a slower pace this year, with strong safe-haven demand for top-end central London real estate offset by stagnating growth in the regions, Estates Gazette's Rich List showed on Saturday.
The combined worth of the list's 250 members hit 87 billion pounds in 2011, up 21 percent from 72 billion in 2010. New entrants Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli, the Swiss-Italian pharmaceutical billionaires, accounted for almost half the uplift.
This year's rise in combined value marks the second year of recovery for UK commercial property. The rich listers' worth peaked at 98 billion pounds in 2007, and fell to 69 billion in 2009 during the global financial meltdown.
Philip Beresford, who compiled the EG Rich List, said the rankings revealed a two-tier property market.
London is doing well on the back of the luxury market as the world's billionaires flood in, either as investors in the property market or buyers of top end properties as bolt holes in these very uncertain times, he said in an email to Reuters.
But the further one moves from London, the more subdued is the market as recessionary worries grow.
Concerns over the health of the euro zone debt crisis and the UK's weak growth forecasts have driven investors away from the country's riskier commercial property markets to safer assets in central London and key regional cities.
EG said a key driver behind the wealth growth was the strong recovery in prime central London property, which had boosted the wealth of landed estate owners, such as the Duke of Westminster and Earl Cadogan.
Big-ticket deals by rich listers David and Simon Reuben, the Barclay brothers and John Whittaker during the year was another driver behind the rise in combined wealth, EG said.
The Duke of Westminster, who owns swathes of prime central London property through his company Grosvenor Estate retained the list's top spot with a 7.0 billion pounds pot.
Bertarelli and his wife, Kirsty, who was Miss UK in 1988, were in second place with a fortune of 6.8 billion pounds. Bertarelli is investing up to 500 million pounds in UK properties through private equity firm Crosstree Real Estate partners to build a 1 billion pounds portfolio.
The youngest entrants to make the list were sisters India-Rose and Fawn James, the 20- and 25-year-old granddaughters of the late Soho Estates founder and porn baron Paul Raymond, who together have a shared fortune of 302 million pounds.
The number of Irish investors and developers on the list fell from 32 in 2010 to 26, reflecting the country's ongoing debt, economic and property woes.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Andrew Macdonald)