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Sun 13 Apr 2008 04:00 AM

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Zabeel eyes $1bn investment in US hotels

Zabeel Investments set to launch a $1bn raid for a series of hotels in major US cities.

Dubai-based private equity firm Zabeel Investments is set to launch a US$1bn raid for a series of hotels in major cities across the US.

The firm is eyeing existing properties in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, as well as other US locations, and could move within the next few weeks.

"We're targeting existing hotels in the US and putting together a hit list," Mohammed Ali Al Hashimi, Zabeel's executive chairman told Arabian Business. "I am getting myself into a position so that when I am ready, all I need to do is flick the switch."

In February, Zabeel snapped up a 50% stake in Las Vegas-based hotel manager The Light Group, and it is through this group that Zabeel will conduct its US hospitality operations. Zabeel and The Light Group will also manage the Harmon Hotel in Las Vegas, which MGM Mirage is building with Dubai World.

Zabeel, which recently launched Zabeel Properties and Zabeel Capital to manage the company's global investments, is also planning to build two "Light Hotels", one in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi. Along with the US purchases, the total investment will exceed US$1bn, Al Hashimi said.

"I am very optimistic about the US [economy] - whatever is happening now, it is temporary," he added. "The US will bounce back, and I'm looking on this as a small window of opportunity. It's kind of open now, and I think it might open a little more, but for certain it will only be open for a short period of time."

Last year, the company bought a strategic stake in European firm EADS, owner of Airbus and maker of the A380 superjumbo, and co-invested in Japanese electronics giant Sony. Al Hashimi has said that he may up his stakes in both companies.