Queen Elisabeth’s commercial property empire

12 November 2015 2:58 pm

Queen Elisabeth, the longest serving monarch in British history, is worth $88 billion, according to Brand Finance.

Now it’s true, the Queen and all that goes with her is worth about one-seventh of the value of Apple, one-quarter the size of Microsoft and about a third of the combined value of AB InBev and SABMiller which have just decided to merge to create the world’s largest brewing company.

But still, in these straitened times of austerity, you have to wonder about the Royal Family coming under increasing pressure to pay its way in more ways than it does now.

Which is why it’s worth looking at how the Queen got to be so rich. The answer: property investment

According to Bloomberg, almost all of Regent Street, along with huge swaths of central London, is owned by the Crown Estate, which manages a property portfolio worth £11 billion ($A23.5 billion) on behalf of the British monarchy and Her Majesty’s Treasury.

A map of the Crown Estate’s holdings looks like a Monopoly board. The estate owns half of St. James’. For those who have never been to London, that’s where you findthe Ritz, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and St. James’s Palace. It’s also overseeing a £320 million commercial redevelopment to revitalize the area. With 8 million square feet (743,000 square meters) of mixed-use space worth about £6 billion, the Crown Estate is the largest landlord in the West End. It also owns most of so-called Billionaires Row at Kensington Palace Gardens.

As part of devolution in Scotland, management of the group’s Scottish assets – now worth £260m – will pass to a standalone organisation, although the crown estate will continue to own them. Assets include farmland, coastal waters and the rights for renewable energy – wind, wave and tidal power plus carbon capture storage.

The Crown Estate posted a record £285 million return to Treasury coffers in the year ended on March 31, up almost 7 percent over the previous year.

That’s been good news for Queen Elizabeth II,

She gets 15 percent of the estate’s annual profit in the form of a Sovereign Grant to fund the royal family’s living expenses.
So while the rest of Britain endures lingering austerity alongside modest growth, the queen’s annual income is set to rise to £42.7 million in fiscal year 2017, up from £31 million in fiscal year 2013.

More to the point, the Queen faces no cuts to her finances for the next two years under the Conservatives’ austerity plans.

Of course, she has come a long way from 1947 when she married Phillip, her Greek prince. With the country still reeling with debt and the deprivations of war, Phillip was relatively skint. The story goes that he walked up the aisle in darned socks. Still, he knew he was on to a good thing. Changing his religion and name to Windsor was a real bargain.

Billed at the time as the “austerity wedding”, the British government awarded Elizabeth 200 coupons towards her outfit.

She hasn’t looked back. And the British public seem to accept it.