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Thu 14 Jan 2016 03:52 PM

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UAE billionaire says Gulf money would quit US if Trump wins

Khalaf Al Habtoor says Gulf Arabs could pull billions in investment money if Trump becomes US president

UAE billionaire says Gulf money would quit US if Trump wins

Gulf Arabs could pull billions in investment money from the United States if Donald Trump wins the presidency later this year, billionaire UAE businessman Khalaf Al Habtoor told Reuters.

Trump, front-runner to be the Republican presidential candidate, triggered outrage around the world when he advocated a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The United States "will lose their businesses, people will cancel any plans of investment there, I am sure of that," said Habtoor, the head of United Arab Emirates-based conglomerate Al Habtoor Group (AHG), who once supported Trump's candidacy.

"Because if you don't want me in your country, how can I invest and put my money there. Therefore people will divest, and this will result in unemployment in the United States."

Habtoor is chairman of AHG, one of the biggest family businesses in the UAE, with a range of interests including automotives, hospitality and construction. It plans 2 billion dirhams ($544.6 million) of acquisitions in the hospitality sector in the United States and Europe this year.

If other Gulf investors take a similar view, billions of dollars of Gulf Arab money slated for investment in the United States could be at risk.

The UAE was the United States' largest trading partner in the Middle East in 2014, with $25 billion in bilateral trade, according to data from the US-UAE Business Council's website.

That includes multi-billion-dollar aircraft orders for Boeing from Emirates and Etihad Airways as well as defence contracts.

Qatar's sovereign wealth fund set up an office in New York in April last year and plans to invest $35 billion in the country over the next five years.

Habtoor is not the first Gulf businessman to express anger at statements by Trump, who has also suggested refugees fleeing violence in Syria are affiliated with ISIL militants.

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal called Trump a disgrace in a Twitter spat on Dec. 12, although he not threaten to pull out his US investments. His company Kingdom Holding has a substantial portfolio of US holdings including Citigroup , Twitter, and Newscorp.

Habtoor says Trump should not have stereotypically identified Muslims as terrorists.

"ISIS are not Muslims, Al Qaeda are not Muslims, Hezbollah are not Muslims, they are criminals, they are terrorists," said Habtoor, who said he had written a letter to Trump asking him to reconsider his views and public statements.

Habtoor had initially backed Trump for the presidency, writing an op-ed in the UAE daily newspaper The National on Aug. 9 in which he said he was "convinced that he was the right man for the job".

"I was supporting Mr. Trump because he is a very successful businessman, he is very shrewd, and I thought the United States now needs a successful businessman rather than a politician," Habtoor said, adding he had been surprised by Trump's comments.

Dr Dion 3 years ago

As a born and bred American and now with citizenship in Australia, I agree with the article and statements shared. As a businessman, Trump is very good; as an international diplomat - he needs a few lessons. Hopefully the American people will understand the important of international relationships when it comes to voting.

Hamaza Ali 3 years ago

At the end of the day Trump doesn't care what happens to America, Trump cares what happens to him. He reminds me of the Book " The making of a Sociopath". His supporters represent 16 to 20 percent of the voters who are not happy with the demographic changes in America. " The gold old white boy network". Just my opinion.

Frankiejo 3 years ago

The withdrawal of investments from the US is already in progress without the aid of Trump. The low oil prices are forcing a claw back by Sovereign Wealth Funds, Wealthy families and companies. Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority already withdrew $72 bil from fund managers. However the withdrawal can pick up pace. I thought the same as Mr. Habtoor with Trump being a business man. I keep waiting for Trump to tone things down...So far it hasn't happened. I appreciate Mr Habtoors very public comments...A very sharp guy