When Arabs go shopping, they go to town — that is, they try and buy the whole town. London is a favorite with the Qataris in particular, who have been on a shopping spree of late, snapping up prime real estate in Mayfair, shares in the London Stock Exchange, Chelsea Barracks, Camden Market and hotels such as The Connaught and The Berkley.
Arab investors also love their iconic monuments and high fashion labels, even if the investments were running at a loss. Harrods, previously owned by Egyptian magnate Mohammed Al Fayed, passed into Qatari hands in 2010 for about $1.65 billion, but the sale came with $688.1 million of debt.
Fashion mecca Barneys New York, which filed for bankruptcy in 1996, was purchased for $825 million in June 2008 by Dubai’s Istithmar World and sold, with debts, in May 2012. Bahrain-based Investcorp once owned luxury jewelers Tiffany & Co. (acquired in 1984, floated 1987) and the Gucci fashion house (1989 to 1993, floated 1996).
It’s not just bricks and mortar, either. The Middle East has spent $1.5 billion on European football, with the UAE spending $163 million on shirt sponsorship deals alone in 2014. Teams that are wholly or partly Arab-owned include Manchester City (90 percent Abu Dhabi Holdings, $330 million, 2008) Paris St Germain (Qatari Sport Investments $130 million, 2011), Malaga CF (100 percent Qatar, $30.45 million), Nottingham Forest (100 percent Kuwaiti), 1860 Munchen (49 percent Jordanian $25 million 2011), Arsenal (Red and White Holdings, 29 percent, $250 million) and Leeds United (Bahrain, $84 million).
Take a look some surprising Arab acquisitions and indulge in a little window shopping!