The Great Arab Buy-Out: When the wealthy go shopping

Published October 20th, 2015 - 04:30 GMT

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!

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Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil: Founded by two Canadian street performers, the maddest circus show on the planet received an injection of Emirati funds in 2008. Istithmar World’s 20 percent stake was later reduced to 10 percent as the partnership soured amid falling profits.

Qatar Investment Authority

Hong Kong Electricity: In June 2015, Qatar Investment Authority expanded further into Asia with its $1.19 billion purchase of 19.9 percent in HK Electric Investments, one of Hong Kong's two main electricity generation companies.

Claridge's Hotel

Claridge's Hotel, London: This trophy asset, bought in April 2015, is rumored to have cost $1.8 billion and is part of the Qatari royal family’s London spree that includes The Connaught, The Berkley, and a 13-bedroom, 30,000-square-foot mansion on Regent’s Park.

BAA airport operator

Heathrow Airport: Qatar's sovereign wealth fund gained 20 percent control of airport operator BAA for $991 million in 2012. BAA also runs Stansted, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports.

Valentino couture

Valentino: Qatar’s Mayhoola bought the Italian fashion house for $850 million in 2012, adding to its luxury portfolio that includes Anya Hindmarch, French leather company Le Tanneur & Cie, Harrods, Le Printemps department store and a stake in LVMH.

The Shard

The Shard: The EU’s tallest building, dubbed the Cheese Grater, hosts The Shangri-La Hotel, offices, and Al Jazeera’s second largest facility outside of Doha. The Shard is 95 percent owned by the state of Qatar and 5 percent by the Sellar Property Group.

London's Olympic Village

London’s 2012 Olympic village: Qatar Investment Authority snapped up the athletes’ village in East London for $613 million. Their plan is to turn their share of 1,439 properties into private rental accommodation.

American Embassy, London

The former American Embassy, London: The Grade II listed building in Grosvenor Square, Westminster was once the largest embassy in Western Europe. Designed by Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen, it was bought in 2009 by Qatari Diar.

Sainsbury's

Sainsburys: The Qatari Investment Authority first bought shares in the UK's second largest chain of supermarkets in 1987 but are now the largest shareholders, controlling 26 percent.

Queen Elizabeth II

QE2: The Queen Elizabeth II was considered the last of the great transatlantic ocean liners. Acquired by Dubai’s Istithmar World in 2008, plans to convert it to a 500-room floating hotel have stalled, so it remains moored at the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai.

Cirque du Soleil
Qatar Investment Authority
Claridge's Hotel
BAA airport operator
Valentino couture
The Shard
London's Olympic Village
American Embassy, London
Sainsbury's
Queen Elizabeth II
Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil: Founded by two Canadian street performers, the maddest circus show on the planet received an injection of Emirati funds in 2008. Istithmar World’s 20 percent stake was later reduced to 10 percent as the partnership soured amid falling profits.
Qatar Investment Authority
Hong Kong Electricity: In June 2015, Qatar Investment Authority expanded further into Asia with its $1.19 billion purchase of 19.9 percent in HK Electric Investments, one of Hong Kong's two main electricity generation companies.
Claridge's Hotel
Claridge's Hotel, London: This trophy asset, bought in April 2015, is rumored to have cost $1.8 billion and is part of the Qatari royal family’s London spree that includes The Connaught, The Berkley, and a 13-bedroom, 30,000-square-foot mansion on Regent’s Park.
BAA airport operator
Heathrow Airport: Qatar's sovereign wealth fund gained 20 percent control of airport operator BAA for $991 million in 2012. BAA also runs Stansted, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports.
Valentino couture
Valentino: Qatar’s Mayhoola bought the Italian fashion house for $850 million in 2012, adding to its luxury portfolio that includes Anya Hindmarch, French leather company Le Tanneur & Cie, Harrods, Le Printemps department store and a stake in LVMH.
The Shard
The Shard: The EU’s tallest building, dubbed the Cheese Grater, hosts The Shangri-La Hotel, offices, and Al Jazeera’s second largest facility outside of Doha. The Shard is 95 percent owned by the state of Qatar and 5 percent by the Sellar Property Group.
London's Olympic Village
London’s 2012 Olympic village: Qatar Investment Authority snapped up the athletes’ village in East London for $613 million. Their plan is to turn their share of 1,439 properties into private rental accommodation.
American Embassy, London
The former American Embassy, London: The Grade II listed building in Grosvenor Square, Westminster was once the largest embassy in Western Europe. Designed by Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen, it was bought in 2009 by Qatari Diar.
Sainsbury's
Sainsburys: The Qatari Investment Authority first bought shares in the UK's second largest chain of supermarkets in 1987 but are now the largest shareholders, controlling 26 percent.
Queen Elizabeth II
QE2: The Queen Elizabeth II was considered the last of the great transatlantic ocean liners. Acquired by Dubai’s Istithmar World in 2008, plans to convert it to a 500-room floating hotel have stalled, so it remains moored at the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai.

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