UAE investors splash cash on European property - report

Investors from Gulf state accounted for more than US$1bn in continent in second half of 2012

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

UAE investors bought almost €1bn (US$1.3bn) worth of commercial property in Europe during the second half of last year, according to international real estate advisor CBRE.

The investment accounted for 3 percent of the cross-border commercial property purchases across the continent during the six months.

Buyers from across the Middle Eastern, particularly sovereign wealth funds, accounted for a significant amount of the investment that flowed into the European market last year, CBRE said.

Paris was the main beneficiary, with the Middle East accounting for about 18 percent of total investment in commercial real estate, which was more than any other region except the rest of Europe.

Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is believed to be the largest Middle Eastern investor in Europe last year, picking up numerous buildings in Paris including two luxury properties on Paris’ Champs-Elysées boulevard.

The sovereign wealth fund that bought London’s Harrods department store in 2010 for US$2.22bn bough a flagship retail complex from French insurance firm Groupama for around €500m (US$622m), according to a report in June by French newspaper Le Figaro.

It was also reported in December that QIA bought a luxury housing complex on the famous avenue from French private equity fund LBO France. Both are art deco buildings dating back to the 1930s.

QIA said it January last year it had taken over the luxury hotel Raffles in Paris.

It also spent US$367m buying a Paris building which houses a section of the US embassy and the offices of national newspaper Le Figaro, as well as four French hotels formerly owned by the US hotel Starwood Capital.

QIA also is believed to be mystery buyer of a portfolio of luxury hotels in France worth €700m (€943m) earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADIA bought the 63,000-square metre Zuiderpoort office in Ghent, Belgium from Icelandic bank SJ1 in what was Belgium’s largest office deal last year.

The purchase price was not disclosed but analysts estimated it to be about €110m.

Details of the UAE investments were not made available.

The Middle Eastern also accounted for about 7 percent of commercial real estate investment in London and 2 percent in Moscow last year, according to CBRE.

“There was a particularly strong influx of capital from the Middle East,” the CBRE report said.

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