Mirax Purchases London Townhouse

Real estate developer Mirax Group has bought a 19th-century townhouse in central London that it plans to turn into sumptuous accommodation for wealthy Russians, the company said last week.

The purchase of the 8,000-square-meter Cornwall Terrace townhouse near Regent's Park is the privately owned developer's first venture into the British market. It plans to split the house into eight separate properties for sale.

"It's our trial step into London. We don't rule out the possibility that, if it's a success, we will offer the city other ambitious development projects," Mirax board member Maxim Temnikov said in a statement.

The average price of central London houses in the ?1 pound to ?2 million ($2 million to $4 million) and ?4 million-plus brackets rose more than 43 percent last year, data from property consultancy Knight Frank showed.

Mirax Group, founded as Stroimontazh in 1994 by architecture graduates Sergei Polonsky and Artur Kirilenko, said its London properties would go on sale after their revamp is completed by the end of 2009. It did not state the asking price.A company source said Mirax was not the only firm participating in the development, but did not name its partners.

Demand for elite housing in London is high from Russians enjoying the proceeds from a decade-long economic boom at home amid record prices for the country's main export commodities -- oil and metals.

Mirax is involved in a number of high-profile projects in Moscow, including the Federation Tower, Europe's highest building.