BVI-based companies top list for foreign property ownership

Companies registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) own more property in England and Wales than those based in any other country, according to analysis of Land Registry data on overseas property ownership carried out by the BBC

Of around 97,000 properties held by overseas firms on the database in January 2018, a quarter (23,000) is held by 11,700 businesses registered in the BVI. Two thirds of the total are registered to companies in the BVI, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

BBC researchers say the analysis provides a new picture of ownership of property by overseas companies in England and Wales following a decision last November to make the database public and free to access.

The BVI has refuted claims that it is a tax haven. In a statement to the BBC, it said that there were many practical reasons why UK properties might be owned by companies incorporated in the BVI, including the ability for BVI companies to bring together multiple investors and owners, which is useful for big commercial property deals that have investors in more than one country.

The BVI also said that it shared ‘necessary information’ including ownership details with relevant authorities.

The BBC analysis shows 44% of all properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are located in London, with a total value of £33.9bn. Of these, 11,500 are located in the City of Westminster and over 6,000 in the Kensington and Chelsea.

HM Land Registry: Overseas Companies Ownership Data is here.

Report by Pat Sweet

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