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Mon 9 Nov 2009 10:18 AM

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Qatar's Al Faisal eyes overseas hotel deals

Company chairman announces plan to buy, build hotels in Europe, US, big Arab cities.

Qatar's Al Faisal Holding is shifting its focus to the hospitality sector, including buying hotels mainly in Europe, North America, and big Arab cities as it expands its hotel business globally, the company's chairman said.

The family run firm, holding company for businesses ranging from information technology, entertainment and construction, is among a raft of Gulf Arab investors eyeing assets globally after valuations plummeted in the global financial crisis.

"We will buy and build hotels depending on the opportunities," Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani told Reuters in an interview. "We are looking at the US, UK, Paris and Canada as well as the big capitals of the Arab World."

The company is in talks with a number of parties and would "definitely acquire hotels in a year", Sheikh Faisal said, adding he was aiming to sign a deal soon. He declined to give further details or the size of potential transactions.

The company focuses on five and four star hotels, but until now its main interest has been at home, where it has tapped opportunities to compensate for a shortage of hotel rooms as Qatar's economy surges on the back of high oil price.

"The plan for next five years is to have between 5-10 hotels in the medium-term," he said.

Qatar, the world's largest liquefied natural gas exporter, has been pouring billions of dollars into infrastructure development to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons, help propel itself onto the international arena and become a transport hub between Europe and Asia.

The property arm of the country's sovereign wealth fund said on Nov 3 it had agreed to buy the landmark US embassy building in London as part of plans to increase investment in the UK's property sector to 5 billion pounds from 3 billion pounds now. (Reuters)

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