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London penthouse will offer chance to look down at royalty

A penthouse "overlooking the Queen's balcony" will cap a London luxury apartment project planned near Buckingham Palace, according to its Abu Dhabi-based owner.

[DUBAI] A penthouse "overlooking the Queen's balcony" will cap a London luxury apartment project planned near Buckingham Palace, according to its Abu Dhabi-based owner.

The 10,000 square-foot (929 square-meter) apartment at No 1 Palace St across the street from the royal residence will probably fetch about 60 million pounds (S$125.74 million), Jassim Alseddiqi, chief executive officer of Abu Dhabi Financial Group LLC, said in an interview in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Monday.

"It's one of a kind," he said. "There's interest, but we won't release it until it's finished. We'll probably auction it."

The company intends to spend around US$400 million this year on development while scouting for new properties in London and Miami. At Palace St, it plans to build 72 luxury apartments. The penthouse is set for completion by December 2017. The CEO estimates the apartments in the building can fetch 4,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds a square foot.

"This year, it will be about unlocking the value of what we acquired last year," he said. "No 1 Palace St, for example, isn't in Mayfair or Knightsbridge. It's a location that will be as good as those areas in the future."

New Scotland Yard Abu Dhabi Financial Group bought the Palace St property in November in a 310 million-pound financing deal. It acquired New Scotland Yard, the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police since 1967, in December for 370 million pounds.

The Abu Dhabi company, founded in 2011, is a multi-billion dollar investment firm focused on real estate, financial services and alternative debt, according to its website. The company, which opened a residential, commercial and retail center in Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, last year, is planning to build homes and offices on one million square-feet of land on the coast, the CEO said.

The company beat 10 other bidders last year to buy New Scotland Yard. It plans to complete the redevelopment of the 1.7-acre (0.69-hectare) site in Victoria by 2020. The project will include 300 to 350 apartments, offices, shops and other facilities with construction expected to start by the end of 2016, according to the CEO.

Mr Alseddiqi isn't done with the UK capital yet. He said he's considering another "development opportunity" in central London to build homes, declining to be more specific.

The executive said he's concerned about tighter controls on wealthy foreign investors in the UK and the possibility of a "mansion tax" promised by the opposition Labour Party if it wins national the election in May.

"If the government continues to ratchet up, I expect it won't just affect the real estate market in London, but the whole UK economy," he said. Britain "will lose out on the foreign demand and become like other European countries" where direct foreign investment is disappearing.

The company sees growth opportunities in residential and hotel properties in US cities such as Miami, Los Angeles and New York and is studying a housing development opportunity in Miami.

"Most attractive to us is Miami," the CEO said. "It has a lot of room to grow and it's coming up as a lifestyle city."