Queen’s property portfolio ‘should invest abroad’
The Queen's £8 billion ($13 billion) property portfolio should be turned into a sovereign wealth fund, be able to invest abroad and generate more money for the UK economy, according to a group of British politicians who are pushing for a change in the law.
The Crown Estate owns large parts of London's west end and prime retail locations across Britain, along with thousands of acres of forest, much of the U.K.'s seabed and the Windsor Estate and Castle.
Current legislation means the group can only invest in U.K. property and land, but a group of politicians have called for a change to the law which would broaden its investment scope by making it a state-owned sovereign wealth fund.
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Although the Crown Estate belongs to the Queen, by virtue of her accession to the throne, she does not receive the portfolio's revenues. In 1760, King George III surrendered the estate's revenues to the government – which would instead pay the monarch a fixed annual payment –and in return, his personal debts were forgiven.
The Co-operative Party members of British Parliament – who are also members of the country's main opposition party Labour - want the Crown Estate to be able to explore ventures into overseas property markets.
"A British Sovereign Wealth Fund could promote co-operation with fast growing overseas businesses, earning the U.K. vital income over the long term," Gareth Thomas, chair of the Co-op Party, said in a statement.
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The party stressed that eight of the world's 10 largest property markets were in the Asian Pacific region, including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and India. It also called for the Crown Estate to be allowed to take a stake in technology companies, which would help "Britain secure access to innovative ideas developed abroad."
The change would help the Crown Estate better compete with a growing number of state-owned sovereign wealth funds, a number of which invest abroad, including in the U.K. The largest is in Norway, worth $737.2 billion, but Saudi Arabia, UAE-Abu Dhabi and China all have funds worth over $500 billion, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.
In the year to the end of March, the Crown Estate, which has a property portfolio worth £8.1 billion, generated net profit of £252.6 million for Britain's Treasury – a 5.2 percent rise on the year before.
— By CNBC's Katrina Bishop. Follow her on Twitter