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London police sell HQ for US$578.9m to Abu Dhabi investment firm

[LONDON] London's police sold their New Scotland Yard headquarters for 370 million pounds (US$578.90 million) on Tuesday to an Abu Dhabi investment firm, the latest part of the British capital to be snapped up by foreign investors.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said in September that it would put its New Scotland Yard headquarters, famed for its revolving triangular sign, on the market, listing the site with a guide price of 250 million pounds.

The move is part of wider cost-saving measures at Britain's largest police force, which is relocating to a smaller site.

Abu Dhabi Financial Group paid 120 million pounds above the listed price; the central London location is to be turned into a development including luxury apartments in what the firm said it hoped would become a new London landmark.

"The New Scotland Yard site will be one of the most important redevelopment projects undertaken in Central London this decade, replacing a world famous headquarters with a world class development," said group CEO Jassim Alseddiqi.

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Foreign investors have poured money into London as a safe haven while other markets like the eurozone have suffered. But they have been criticised for inflating London property costs - house prices have jumped by some 20 percent over the past year.

The 600,000-square-foot (56,000-square-metre) site has been home to the Metropolitan Police Service since 1967 and becomes the latest prime bit of London real estate to spark the interest of foreign investors.

In recent weeks a Brazilian-Lebanese billionaire has bought one of London's most famous modern landmarks, the Gherkin office tower, and foreign investors have made a bid for the owner of Canary Wharf, London's eastern financial district.

London's police authority will use the funds to help balance its budget and invest some of the proceeds into equipping officers with body cameras and tablets as well as investing in buildings and computer systems.

The relocation to a smaller site is designed to help the MPS save six million pounds a year in running costs and avoid the 50-million-pound expense needed to refurbish the current head office.

In 2012, the MPS announced it was aiming to reduce the force's 9.7-million-square-foot (900,000-square-metre) estate by a third by 2016 as part of belt-tightening efforts by the Home Office (interior ministry).


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