Emirate’s leader set to inaugurate 72-storey Thames tower in July – and chase investment deals
It is tiny and has existed as an independent country for only 41 years. Yet Qatar is fast becoming a kingmaker of corporate Britain.
Qatar already owns Harrods and the American embassy building in Grosvenor Square, London, as well as One Hyde Park, Chelsea Barracks, the Olympic village, 26% of J Sainsbury, 28% of Canary Wharf’s owner, Song Bird Estates, and sizeable chunks of Barclays and the London Stock Exchange.
Next Thursday, the Qatari prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani (pictured below) will arrive in the UK to open the latest piece on his Monopoly board of London: the Shard.The 72-storey tower, the tallest in Europe, is 95%-owned by Qatar.
As the financial crisis struck in 2009, western investors took fright and Qatar swooped.
Two of the building’s two-storey apartments, which have views beyond the M25, are expected to become the London homes of members of the Qatari royal family.
It’s not all about luxury, however. The Qatar Investment Authority also owns 20% of Camden market in north London, via its holding in the property group Chelsfield.
Meanwhile, in France, there is the Ligue 1 football team Paris Saint-Germain that Thani’s Qatar Sports Investments bought this year in a deal that valued the club at €100m. A short drive away there is the authority’s newly bought retail complex on the Champs-Elysées and the headquarters of Vuitton-owner LVMH, in which it has a 1% stake. The authority also has a sizeable stake in Porsche.
But the days when such assets would just be inspected on a trip to Europe are gone. The sovereign wealth fund – to which the gas-rich state gives an annual 40bn to invest – has recently turned from passive investor to activist calling the shots.
Yesterday, the authority, of which Thani is both chairman and chief executive, was playing hardball with some of the best-known names in the City by demanding a much bigger payout from the mega-merger of Glencore and
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