* Full year group profit before tax rises 38 pct
* Value of property assets unchanged at 5.8 bln pounds
* Cuts exposure to super-prime London homes
* To reinvest in rental homes outside Mayfair and Belgravia
(Updates with figure on prime central London home sales)
LONDON, April 29 The owner of much of London's
upmarket Mayfair and Belgravia districts has sold millions of
pounds of prime properties, seeing recent rampant price rises as
unsustainable and preferring to invest in rental homes in
Grosvenor Group, controlled by the Duke of
Westminster - one of Britain's richest men, said it had cut its
exposure to super-prime London homes last year, making sales
that helped its Britain and Ireland unit treble profit.
Demand from foreign investors in search of a safe haven has
pushed London's luxury home prices up by 68 percent since 2009,
compared with a rise of 49 percent in greater London as a whole,
according to property consultancy Knight Frank, leading many
analysts to express concern that a bubble might be forming.
"I'm more concerned about it (high-end residential pricing)
than I was last year," said Chief Executive Mark Preston, who
last year called the rate of growth in London luxury house
"It's very much a deliberate initiative on our part to
capitalise on prices that we think are high," Preston said on
Tuesday as the private company released its annual report.
Grosvenor said it sold off 240 million pounds ($400 million)
worth of central London homes, including row of mid-19th century
terraces in Belgravia for 115 million.
The company intends to reinvest in rental homes outside its
traditional Mayfair and Belgravia turf, targeting more
affordable neighbourhoods, Preston said. It is looking at
securing up to three schemes, having already spent 70 million
pounds on a site in the Bermondsey district last year, where it
intends to let homes.
"Housing for rent is something that we're beginning to turn
our minds to more than we've done in the past," he said. "We're
recognising that London desperately needs more in that
mid-market area where people are literally priced out," he said.
The firm is controlled by the Grosvenor family, headed by
Gerald Grosvenor, who was No. 8 in Britain's Sunday Times Rich
List last year with his 7.8 billion pound fortune.
Grosvenor's London estate, which it has owned for more than
300 years, comprises 300 acres of Mayfair and Belgravia with
more than 1,500 homes, shops and offices as well as investments
in China, Europe and North America, and a fund management arm.
The company said group profit before tax rose 38 percent to
506.9 million pounds in 2013. The value of its property assets
was 5.8 billion, unchanged from 2012.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)