London, Europe’s most active commercial property market since the start of the global financial crisis, has attracted a surge of wealthy Arab buyers seeking a safe haven for their assets.

Arabian Business.com reports that Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has agreed to buy the Canary Wharf headquarters of Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second-biggest bank, as it moves to grow its London real estate portfolio. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has placed 1 Cabot Square under offer for around £330m ($519m) in a sale-and-leaseback deal with the bank, the Telegraph reported on Sunday. The wealth fund is Credit Suisse’s second biggest shareholder, with a six per cent stake.

Qatar Holding, a subsidiary of the investment vehicle, also holds a 27.7 per cent share in Songbird, the majority owner of Canary Wharf Group.

The deal would see QIA further bolster the wealthy Gulf emirate’s extensive property portfolio in London. Qatar already owns the London Bridge Tower, the former Chelsea Barracks site, set be transformed into a $4.8bn mixed-use development, and a share in the city’s $903m Olympic Village through a joint venture.

Middle East investors hold six per cent of office stock in the city’s Square Mile, a Development Securities report said in November, with more than half of the city’s commercial real estate now owned by foreign buyers.

The perception of London as a haven for real estate investors allowed the city to attract the most investment in the world in 2009 and 2010, while last year it vied with New York for the top spot, according to the latest data compiled by Real Capital Analytics Inc. London was one of the first property markets to start recovering from the global financial crisis, rising in the second half of 2009 after two years of declines erased 50 per cent from city-centre office values. The pound’s 22 per cent drop since September 2007 also made property more attractive to international investors.

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