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Sun 17 Feb 2008 02:41 AM

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UPDATE: Plate '1' smashes world record at $14.5mn

Emirati businessman splashes out on the world's most expensive number plate.

An Emirati businessman broke all records for the world’s most expensive number plate on Saturday, paying 52.2 million dirhams ($14.5 million) for plate number ‘1’ at an Abu Dhabi auction.

Abu Dhabi businessman Saeed Abdul Ghaffar Khouri more than doubled the current record held by Talal Ali Mohammed Khouri who paid 25.2 million dirhams for plate number ‘5’ in May 200, also paying 11 million dirhams for the number '7' plate.

Ghaffar Khouri told ArabianBusiness.com after the auction that he had not bought the plate as an investment, although he predicted its worth would double within two years.

Bidding for plate number '1' had started at 20 million dirhams, and quickly escalated to a war between Ghaffar Khouri and another determined bidder.

Ghaffar Khouri, who described his business as property development and sharemarket-related, said he had been prepared to pay up to 100 milion dirhams for the plate. He was yet to decide which vehicle it would be attached to, he said.

The auction, on behalf of Abu Dhabi police, generated a record 89 million dirhams from the sale of 90 plates, including numbers 96, 100, 212, 1111, 2001 and 31313.

Previous record holder Mohammed Khouri had earlier said he was willing to splash out $15 - $20 million to get his hands on the coveted number ‘1’ plate. However, while he was present at the auction, he is not believed to have successfully bid on a plate.

The UAE now holds the seven most expensive plates in the world.

Auctioneer and managing director of Emirates Auction, Abdulla Matar Al Mannaei, said expectations prior to Saturday's sale were "huge", but that the final value exceeded "our wildest hopes and dreams".

“Distinguished number plate auctions have been a preferred investment option for Emiratis”, Al Mannaei said, adding that there has been an average 20% appreciation in plate values per year.

Five previous auctions raised $56 million from the sale of 393 plates.

100% of plates up for auction on Saturday were sold, Al Mannaei said, with all six digit plates fetching 2 million dirhams or higher.

Ten-year old Hazaa Seif Ali Hammadi bid 2.15 million dirhams for plate number ‘51’ on behalf of his father, an Abu Dhabi businessman.

Proceeds from the auction will go towards building a national rehabilitation centre for traffic accident victims - the first of its kind in the UAE.

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