Chinese and Middle Eastern buyers have piled into the UK property market taking advantage of a plunge in the value of the pound since Brexit, a report said.

Sterling’s fall has meant Britain’s £44.5bn commercial property market is on average 16% cheaper than before the UK’s June vote to leave the European Union for foreign buyers, according to research from international real estate firm JLL.

The report comes as British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 today signalling the end of more than 40 years inside the EU – kicking off at least two years of withdrawal negotiations.

Overseas buyers accounted for 51% of sales in the UK market last year, “with the increase likely to be due in part to the currency movement” the study said. This is up from overseas buyers accounting for 48% of all transactional activity in the UK in 2015. In total foreign buyers invested £22.6bn in UK commercial property last year.

But the report found that Chinese and Middle Eastern investors are leading the way over other overseas buyers.

It said: “The depreciation has spurred increased investment in the UK from the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions even though the market has experienced less capital inflow from the United States and global funds.”

Investment from the Asia Pacific region jumped to 28% last year, from 17% a year ago. The study added: “If sterling continues at a similar rate since the referendum, the UK will continue to see sustained interest from Asia Pacific investors.”

By contrast activity levels from buyers in the Americas slumped to 17% last year, from 32% the year before.

JLL head of UK capital markets Alistair Meadows said: “We continue to see the emergence of Chinese capital globally. Chinese investors now rank just behind US as the second largest source of global cross border capital and we expect them to have an increasing influence on the UK market.”

The property group’s head of UK office and capital markets research Ben Burston added that “for many long term investors, sterling deprecation provides an added fillip to the investment case, based on their perception that it will may appreciate once there is more clarity around Brexit and its economic implications”.

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