LONDON Aug 17 Qatar was the top sovereign
wealth buyer of European property in the last 12 months,
spending 3.5 billion euros ($4.3 billion) on eight deals
including the London Olympic athlete's village and a mall on
Paris' Champs Elysees, data from a research firm showed.
For Qatar, the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural
gas (LNG), that spending during the year to mid-August equals
only about six weeks of revenue from its LNG exports, according
to Reuters calculations.
Sovereign wealth funds view top-quality property in the best
locations as a safe bet in the global financial crisis.
"For sovereign wealth funds like the Qatar Investment
Authority (QIA), property deals are about wealth preservation,
not returns," said Joseph Kelly, director of market analysis at
Real Capital Analytics (RCA).
"They have a lot of money to spend, so deals tend to be big
and in the cities they know well."
Gas market traders estimate that Qatar, with a native
population of about 250,000, earned $36 billion in LNG revenue
in 2011, though an exact figure is hard to obtain from available
Qatar was beaten into second place as the biggest overall
property investor in Europe by private equity giant Blackstone
, which spent 4 billion euros on 19 deals, which included
office blocks and industrial units, the RCA data showed.
The QIA, the most active Middle East sovereign wealth fund
in recent years, has spent 5.7 billion euros on real estate
since 2007, almost 80 percent of it in London and Paris, RCA
SHARD, HARRODS, CANARY WHARF
Qatar funded development of the European Union's tallest
skyscraper, the Shard, which opened in London last month.
It also owns Harrods department store and a 27 percent stake
in Songbird Estates, the majority owner of London's
Canary Wharf financial district.
The QIA also has bought stakes in companies ranging from
German sports car maker Porsche, Barclays
and luxury goods house LVMH as it has sought to
diversify economic risk.
It has more than $30 billion to spend on investments this
year alone and its spending strategy has been opportunistic, an
executive board member said in April.
"We have no asset allocation or geographic allocation. After
the financial crisis, all that went in the garbage." Hussain
al-Abdulla said. Asked whether the fund had assets worth $100
billion, he said, "much more".
The sovereign funds of Malaysia and Norway were among those
also active in European real estate. The latter owns half of
famous London shopping strip Regent Street and is nearing a $1.7
billion-plus deal for a majority stake in the Meadowhall
shopping centre in north England.