The 20th Annual Sunday Times Rich List is out. Despite mutterings of property downturns and house prices falling, property tycoons and landowners make up the biggest group. And that's good news for builders. Yes, house prices may be down and commercial property values falling, but 231 of the 1,000 richest people in Britain are making their fortunes in property.
In fact one property owner is the third richest person in the country. The Duke of Westminster is worth a staggering 7 billion pounds, thanks to his ownership of large parts of Britain including much of London's Belgravia. He stepped down as Chairman of Grosvenor Group in 2007 but is still enjoying massive financial rewards from the estate.
Other property owners include David and Simon Reuben who have land worth over 2 billion pounds in the UK and are 10th in the rich list. The Earl of Cadogan who comes 17th is the proud owner of 90 acres of Chelsea. Others are based in the UK but have made their fortunes in property abroad. Lev Leviev comes 21st. He is a Russian property developer, making the most of recent economic liberalisation in that part of the world. Poju Zabludowicz is 31st with the dubious honour of owning 40% of downtown Las Vegas, including several casinos. The brothers Sir Adrian and Sir John Swire have made millions from the Hong Kong property market and are now involved in property developments in China worth 7.5 billion pounds.
Several wealthy UK property owners are working hard to improve their areas, which will provide ample work for the UK building industry. Baroness Howard de Walden renovated 92 acres of her Harley Street estate and is now part of the 1 billion pounds regeneration project to transform Rochester in Kent. John Whittaker is 47th in the rich list and is planning to spend 5.5 billion pounds developing Liverpool's Central Docks while Viscount Portman is planning a renovation of Portman Square in London which comprises 110 acres. So certainly there is a lot to look forward to in terms of land and property improvements in the UK in the next year or so, and opportunities for our builders.
There are certainly other signs of optimism - Eddie and Sol Zakay are London developers who have diversified internationally. They say they are on a global spending spree and that 'cash will be king in 2008'.
But it's not just the UK's luckiest landowners who are optimistic about the property market. The construction industry is not doing badly either with several of the top 250 richest people in Britain within this category.
In at number 81 are Kevin and Michael Lagan. They have made their fortunes in construction around the world, including extensive road building projects in their native Northern Ireland. At 110 Keith Miller's Edinburgh based construction group is doing well and just behind at 112 is David Wilson, with a 729 million pound fortune who describes himself as a Leicestershire based builder.
Terry Bramall is the 184th richest person in the country. His company is the UK's biggest regeneration specialist and the largest provider of social housing in the Midlands and the North of England. While nobody would pretend he is anything but a businessman, it's good to see that socially beneficial construction projects are profitable too and can attract UK entrepreneurial talent.
Big, municipal projects pay well too of course. Ray O'Rourke just makes it into the top 200, largely helped by his company Laing O'Rourke winning a 1.8 billion pound contract in 2007 to build Heathrow's new terminal 2.
And at a more domestic level, Brian Kennedy comes in at 251 with his home improvements empire which has helped him net a 350 million pound fortune.
Construction and property are sectors which may have times of slow-down but they will always be necessary and relevant throughout the world. Many millionaires famous for their success in other sectors, for example the media tycoon Richard Desmond and the consumer electronics multi millionaire Sir Alan Sugar have also invested heavily in property over the years, contributing significantly to their wealth. So if these business icons are willing to risk their hard earned cash on the property market, builders can feel positive too.
Expert builder India Cooper discusses how the biggest group within the Sunday Times Rich List 2008 are millionaires involved in property and construction, which is a good sign for builders. To find out more please visit http://www.ratedpeople.com/find/builder