08/17/2012, 00.00
QATAR

Qatar buying up crisis-stricken Europe

About US$ 4.3 billion are invested in real estate and other assets, including the London Olympic Village and the British capital's skyscraper. The year to mid-August spending is equal to six weeks of revenue from liquefied natural gas exports. Last year's gas revenue totalled US$ 36 billion.

Doha (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Qatar invested US$ 4.3 billion in the past 12 months to buy up European companies, assets, luxury properties and football teams, making it largest sovereign property buyer in the European Union. The deals including the London Olympic Village and a mall on Paris' Champs Elysees, this according to research by Real Capital Analytics (RCA), a market research and commercial real estate information service provider.

For RCA, spending by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) during the year to mid-August equals only about six weeks of revenue from its liquefied natural gas exports.

In 2011, gas revenue totalled US$ 36 billion in a country of 250,000 native residents, which has some 1.2 million foreigner workers.

Since 2007, Qatar invested more than US$ 7 billion in real estate, mostly in London and Paris, funding the construction of the European Union's tallest skyscraper, the Shard, which opened in London just before the London Games. It also owns Harrods department store and has a 27 per cent stake in Songbird Estates, the majority owner of London's Canary Wharf financial district.

In Paris, the QIA bought property worth billions of dollars, including a huge, US$ 615 million hotel on the Champs Elysées.

In France, Qatar's sovereign, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, is famous for owning a majority share of the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club, one of the most prestigious outfits in French football.

In Germany, the emirate also has stakes in many companies, like German sports car maker Porsche.

In an interview with Bloomberg in April, Hussain Al Abdulla, a member on the QIA<s executive board, said that its spending strategy has been opportunistic. "We have no asset allocation or geographic allocation. After the financial crisis, all that went in the garbage."

In a few decades, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have used money earned from oil sales to become essential partners in Europe's economy and foreign policy, as evinced in the latest crises in the Middle East.

In Libya, Qatar and Saudi Arabia played a crucial role in funding the rebels and getting Western nations to attack Gaddafi, including specious reporting on al-Jazeera and al-Arabya.

The same appears to be happening in Syria where the two nations are funding and arming Sunni rebels against the Assad regime.

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