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Nick Candy eyes Dubai and Saudi… ‘for work and pleasure’

Suit, Formal Wear, Clothing
Nick Candy says he loves Dubai and sees great opportunities for luxury resorts in the UAE and Saudi Arabia
  • Billionaire property mogul says sterling crash means London bargains
  • Hopes economic climate ripe to sell his £175m One Hyde Park home
  • Candy sees opportunities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia

British billionaire property magnate Nick Candy is all lit up on our Zoom call, speaking from his family office in Mayfair, London.

“Dubai… I just love it,” he says, of the emirate he visits at least once a month – sometimes with his actor wife Holly Valance and their two daughters, but also to attend high-level business meetings.

“I’ve just come back from a family holiday in Dubai. My kids absolutely love it. It’s great weather, it’s safe, and there is so much to do,” the 49-year-old businessman tells AGBI.

Candy, the mastermind behind One Hyde Park – a landmark luxury property development of 86 apartments with total sales of $2.3 billion – says he considers Dubai to be one of the world’s top investment hot spots. 

“The infrastructure is mind blowing. I wish Heathrow could run as smoothly as Dubai’s airports,” he says, adding that the UAE is going to be a “very good” place to develop real estate.

“I think Dubai is a great place to invest. It has a great quality of life and boasts a great education system. The city is world-class now. In the past you had some supply-demand issues where UAE property was oversupplied in the 2008 crisis, but the whole world had issues then,” Candy adds.

“When I was growing up, the world’s top cities were London, New York, and Hong Kong. Today they are Dubai, London, Singapore, New York and Miami. It’s like we are having a generational change.

And Candy believes that Dubai is here to stay, “because it has invested upfront in infrastructure and quality of life”.

“The only small deterrent is obviously the hot weather in the summer months. But most wealthy people don’t live in one place all year round. Dubai is a global gateway.”

Blazer, Jacket, Coat
Candy and wife Holly Valance, the Australian singer and actor

Open to partnerships

Candy, also the founder of multimillion dollar investment firm Candy Ventures, said he would be “100 percent” open to entering commercial partnerships with Gulf governments. 

“I’d love to. Middle East governments have experiences and skills I haven’t got, and we have experiences and skill sets they haven’t got. So hopefully it’s a merger that is not one plus one equals two, but rather one plus one equals three.”

He highlights Saudi Arabia in particular for its shrewd economic leadership and purchasing power parity (PPP) opportunities.

Last month the International Monetary Fund projected that Saudi Arabia will be one of the world’s fastest-growing economies in 2022, with a growth rate of 7.6 percent, buoyed by higher oil revenues. 

The kingdom recorded the highest real GDP growth among G20 countries in the third quarter of 2022, with a rate of 8.6 percent. 

“For me, I want to be in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. That’s where my efforts will be and I intend to work with my teams and the best-in-class people to develop world-class leading resorts.”

Closer to home, Candy reveals he is still looking for a buyer for his luxury penthouse at One Hyde Park. With a cool asking price of £175 million – the most expensive flat in Britain – it’s no surprise it’s been languishing on the market for a few months.

Candy is casting his net far and wide for buyers, including the petrol-dollar flush Gulf region.

Considered London’s first and seminal luxury property development, One Hyde Park also lays claim to Arabian links – it was developed by the CPC Group, owned by Candy’s brother Christian Candy, and Waternights, a private company owned by Sheikh Hamad Al Thani, former prime minister of Qatar.

Candy’s apartment, split over two levels with five bedrooms, is the development’s flagship 18,000 square foot penthouse.

It includes a stunning view of Hyde Park, two wraparound terraces, a champagne room, private spa and gym, media room, bar and four-car parking space.

Candy has listed his London penthouse, One Hyde Park, for £175m. Picture: Candy Capital

Weak sterling windfall

Amid a backdrop of a plunging sterling, Candy says the London market is flush with international buyers.

“The UK capital is attracting new buyers because the depressed sterling means purchasers are guaranteed a 30 percent discount before even asking for one. The London real estate market is so strong at the moment… I recently put an £8.75 million property on the market and it sold at asking price within a week.”

Candy adds that London is seeing an influx of opportunistic buyers.

“These are the triple-A buyers – Asians, Americans and Arabs. They are investing in all kinds of sterling assets, including luxury property, vintage cars and even wines.”

The latest data from property agents Chestertons corroborates Candy’s statement, reporting that a drop in the value of the pound is driving interest from Middle Eastern investors pegged to the US dollar, with a 10 percent increase in enquiries for London real estate.   

Savings are being achieved on properties which, six months ago, were on the market for £4 million and would have cost around $5.23 million, and, at current exchange rates, the same property now costs around $4.32 million – a saving of almost £1 million.

Nick Candy
If the buyer of Candy’s One Hyde Park penthouse has a big wardrobe they may appreciate the spacious dressing room. Picture: Candy Capital

Statistics from Chestertons Mena also show that the top source markets are the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Egypt. A further uplift of above 10 per cent in enquiries is expected in the coming months as the London real estate market continues to be buoyed by both the favourable exchange rates and the recent announcement of stamp duty relief.

In total there were 461 super-prime (£5 million-plus) transactions between Q1 and Q3 2022 – which is higher than the total number of sales seen in any full year between 2015 and 2020.

“London remains one of the greatest cities in the world, it has the best members clubs, restaurants and activities,” says Candy, adding that his uber-luxury penthouse has seen increased interest from Arab and Indian buyers in the last few weeks.

“My flat is attractive because of the sheer scale of it. In terms of its size, it’s like buying a rare Monet, because building large new flats in the City of Westminster these days is illegal now. Arab buyers may also be attracted to the penthouse because of its luxury services and amenities – it’s like being on a yacht.”

Candy says he received some “very good rental offers for the penthouse” but he is waiting for the asking price to sell it.

“However, I’m always open to chats,” he says, adding that he would provisionally accept Bitcoin as payment.

Now that sterling has dropped by 30 percent, “it’s brought a lot more people out of the woodwork”, say Candy, claiming that the subsequent surge in demand has bolstered – and even cancelled out – any losses from Russian buying sanctions.

Amid the Ukraine war, UK tensions with Russia have seen British visas removed from a host of oligarchs. As a result, Russian buyers now account for just 6 per cent of £10 million-plus home sales in London

“In 2011 when One Hyde Park launched, Russians and Eastern Europeans made up around 25 percent of the development’s ownership,” says Candy. “Eastern European buyers, including Russians, will represent a big proportion of potential buyers in the Middle East now as well [because of Western sanctions].”

One Hyde Park
Candy’s penthouse overlooks Hyde Park in central London. Picture: Candy Capital

Dubai dreams

Despite veering off to tell me about his London penthouse, it’s not long until the property mogul gets back to his favourite subject: Dubai.

Sales of off-plan and secondary properties in Dubai reached a 12-year high in the third quarter of this year, both in terms of volume and value, according to a report by Property Finder.

A total of 25,456 sales transactions worth AED69.72 billion ($18.98 billion) were recorded from July to September, marking an increase of about 62 percent in terms of volume and more than 65 percent in terms of value, compared with the third quarter of 2021.

“Dubai will be where I have one of my global homes. I absolutely love it. And if crime continues to get worse in the UK, I’d be happy to leave. I don’t want to, but if I had to then I would,” he says.

“In the West, whether it’s the US, Paris or London, despite their qualities, they all have increasing crime levels and if we don’t get it under control quickly, we are going to be in trouble.”

Candy insists that Dubai should benefit because “security and safety means a lot and offers peace of mind” to tourists and residents.

“The Western world has gone the other way,” he adds.

“I’ve been going to Dubai for a long time. In the end, I think I’m going to live there for part of the year. I want to live in London, Dubai and my country house in the Cotswolds. That would be perfect.”

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