Investment firm Qatar Holding LLC has revealed plans to open Harrods-branded hotels in cities like London, Paris and New York. This is an aim to build the British luxury retailer into a global brand. The company bought Harrods two years ago for £1.5 billion from businessman Mohamed Al Fayed. The sale included the landmark branch location in London’s Knightsbridge district. This store was opened in 1849 and boasts customers like Oscar Wilde and Sigmund Freud.
Qatar Holding is the main investment unit of the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, whose chairman is Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani. The fund will establish a hotel-management firm to seek out projects across the globe. The vice chairman of the company, Hussain Ali Al-Abdulla, says that they have decided to build a Harrods Hotel in London; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Sardinia, Italy. They are looking to invest more in Malaysia since they believe the economy is growing more there. The fund signed a deal with partners in Malaysia this week for a Harrods Hotel in the Bukit Bintang shopping district of Kuala Lumpur. The development and construction will cost about 2 billion ringgit and start in one year. The hotel will have about 300 rooms and will be their first in Asia. They also plan to open hotels in China, he added.
In a joint statement, Qatar Holding and Harrods said that they prefer to build on sites that Qatar Holdings or its affiliates already own – like the Chelsea Barracks in London or the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia Italy. They ultimately intend to grow Harrods into a worldwide enterprise that defines the luxury retail and leisure markets.
Qatar Holding is part of the Qatar Investment Authority and was established in 2006, striving to achieve steady long-term returns on assets to benefit Qatar and diversify the state’s economy. It’s the biggest shareholder in the J Sainsbury Plc grocery chain in Britain and has stakes in Barclays, high-end American jewellery retailer Tiffany & Co, and French luxury conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Qatari Investment division Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment bought the Chelsea Barracks in January 2008 through a joint venture with Christian Candy’s CPC Group. There had been plans to turn the former military site into homes, but this became involved in a dispute over the design and a legal feud that ended with the firm buying out the rest of CPC’s share in the project. Qatari Diar also owns nearly all of the former Royal Dutch Shell headquarters in London. In August, the company bought the athlete’s village at the Olympic site for £557 million in a joint venture with Delancey Estates Plc.
The Gulf state owns several British assets as well, including areas of the Canary Wharf financial district and the Shard building. On Thursday, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani will visit the UK to open the Shard, its newest property at 72 storeys.
The sovereign wealth fund agreed in April to purchase luxury hotel operator Smeralda Holding from Colony Capital LLC. The transaction included four accommodation properties in Costa Smeralda, which is located on the Italian island of Sardinia. Also included were undeveloped land, a golf course and a marina. The hotels will continue to be operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
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