Qatar investor buys UK department store Harrods

LONDON (Reuters) – The investment arm of Qatar’s  sovereign wealth fund has bought the famous London department  store Harrods from Egyptian-born businessman Mohamed al-Fayed in  a deal reported to be worth around 1.5 billion pounds ($2.3  billion).

Qatar Holding, the prime vehicle for strategic and direct  investments by the State of Qatar, would not confirm the  estimated figure reported by Sky News.

The country’s prime minister, who is also chairman of Qatar  Holding, said there were plans to upgrade the luxury store,  popular with tourists and an historic landmark in the upmarket  Knightsbridge area of London.

“What I can assure you is Qatar Holding will do their best  to upgrade this monument, to make it even greater and better for  the tourism and also for the British people,” Sheikh Hamad bin  Jassim al-Thani told reporters in an impromptu news conference  at the store.

He said it will create a “road map” to upgrade Harrods in  the next few months.

The deal brings to an end 25 years of ownership by al-Fayed,  who will become honorary chairman.

“Mohamed al-Fayed has decided to retire and to spend more  time with his children and grandchildren,” Ken Costa, chairman  of Lazard International, said in a statement yesterday. Lazard  advised the al-Fayed family trust.

“Qatar Holding was specifically chosen by the Trust as they  had both the vision and financial capacity to support the long  term successful growth of Harrods,” Costa added.

Qatar Holding is an arm of Qatar Investment Authority (QIA),  which was founded by the State of Qatar in 2005 to strengthen  its economy by diversifying into new asset classes.

QIA is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the  world with an estimated $60 billion or more in assets under  management.

“It is a privilege for us to acquire Harrods, a unique  company that combines an iconic luxury brand and one of the most  prestigious retail properties in the world with best-in-class  financial metrics,” Ahmad M Al Sayed, chief executive officer  and managing director of Qatar Holding, said in a statement.

Qatar Holding has stakes in supermarket chain J Sainsbury,  the London Stock Exchange and Credit Suisse.

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