Qatar wealth fund snaps up prime Canary Wharf property

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Qatar already has a 27.7% stake in Songbird, the majority owner of Canary Wharf Group

Qatar already has a 27.7% stake in Songbird, the majority owner of Canary Wharf Group

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has agreed to buy the Canary Wharf headquarters of Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second-biggest bank, as it moves to grow its London real estate portfolio.

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has placed 1 Cabot Square under offer for around £330m ($519m) in a sale-and-leaseback deal with the bank, the Telegraph reported on Sunday.

The wealth fund is Credit Suisse’s second biggest shareholder, with a six percent stake.

Qatar Holding, a subsidiary of the investment vehicle, also holds a 27.7 percent share in Songbird, the majority owner of Canary Wharf Group.

The deal would see QIA further bolster the wealthy Gulf emirate’s extensive property portfolio in London. Qatar already owns the London Bridge Tower, the former Chelsea Barracks site, set be transformed into a $4.8bn mixed-use development, and a share in the city’s $903m Olympic Village through a joint venture.

Qatari Diar, the real estate arm of the Gulf state’s wealth fund, last July inked a deal to develop Shell International’s headquarters in the heart of London.

The company signed a joint venture with UK developer Canary Wharf Group, each paying £150m ($244.9m) each to secure the 5.25 acre site on a 999 year lease.

The development will be mixed use, comprising office, retail and residential space. Shell is expected to take a 210,000 sq ft pre-let of one of the new office buildings.

London, Europe’s most active commercial property market since the start of the global financial crisis, has attracted a surge of wealthy Arab buyers seeking a safe haven for their assets.

Middle East investors hold six percent of office stock in the city’s Square Mile, a Development Securities report said in November, with more than half of the city’s commercial real estate now owned by foreign buyers.

The perception of London as a haven for real estate investors allowed the city to attract the most investment in the world in 2009 and 2010, while last year it vied with New York for the top spot, according to the latest data compiled by Real Capital Analytics Inc.

London was one of the first property markets to start recovering from the global financial crisis, rising in the second half of 2009 after two years of declines erased 50 percent from city-center office values. The pound’s 22 percent drop since September 2007 also made property more attractive to international investors.

*With agencies

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