The Middle East’s wealthiest private investors are seeking to take advantage of collapsing markets in the west by increasing their investments in depressed US and UK real estate markets, private bankers say.

The Middle East’s richest private investors control about $1,700bn (€1,360bn, £1,120bn) of assets, according to research by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch, a figure they forecast will rise to $3,400bn by 2012.

'Our clients are asking us about US distressed real estate, and we have had a lot of interest in the UK commercial property market, particularly in London, where prices have declined very, very quickly,' Philip Watson, head of Citi Private Bank investment analysis, said. 'People can sense there are opportunities.'

Citigroup hopes to capitalise on the surge in interest through its newly set up UK commercial property fund – managed by a third party provider – that aims to raise £100m ($150m, €120m) from high-net-worth individuals and invest over the next 18 months, said Watson.

Financial Times