Al Habtoor Seeks to Buy 5-star Hotels in Europe

DUBAI — Dubai’s Al Habtoor Group is seeking opportunities to buy at least two 5-star hotels in London and Paris, and plans to build two new hotels in Dubai, its chairman told Khaleej Times.

By Abdul Basit

Published: Tue 26 Jan 2010, 11:20 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:51 PM

Khalaf Al Habtoor said the hotels in Dubai will be on Palm Jumeirah Island and Shaikh Zayed Road.

“Our target is for the time being two properties. Maybe one in London and one in Paris, or two in the same country, the better opportunity we get, we will grab first,” Al Habtoor said.

“The only reasons we are targeting London and Paris is because they are considered as the capitals of Europe.”

He said while seeking opportunities abroad makes sense given the fall in prices due to the financial crisis, the Gulf region will remain an investment priority for his company. “In the hotel business, we are now studying to build two new properties. One will be on the Palm Island and the other one on Shaikh Zayed Road.”

Al Habtoor said he had discussed his plans to buy properties in Europe with Baron David de Rothschild, Chairman of London-based NM Rothschild & Sons, in a recent meeting at his Dubai headquarters.

“During our latest meeting in my office with Baron David Rothschild I did discuss buying properties in Europe with him, and we said that if they see any opportunity for us, to advise us. But it is not exclusively with Rothschild that we are looking for properties.”

Rothschild specialises in the provision of financial and strategic consulting services, the supply of liquidity and the collection of capital through global financial markets. In a separate interview with Reuters Al Habtoor said his Group was also aiming to win up to $8.2 billion worth of building contracts in 2010 with Australia’s Leighton Holdings. “We talked with Rothschild bank ... about investment in Europe and especially in London and Paris for hotels if there is anything they can find so they are looking for us,” he said adding the group was also looking at companies who want to sell their assets due to a lack of financial liquidity.

Habtoor said in August the group had about $1.3 billion to invest in Europe.

The group, which rivals Dubai’s largest contractor Arabtec, has a joint venture with Leighton and has said it may float its engineering unit or the entire group in the third quarter of 2010, with possible listings in Dubai and London.

The construction firm is working on about Dh27 billion ($7.35 billion) of projects in the United Arab Emirates at present and expects to bid on about Dh40 billion worth of projects in Abu Dhabi alone this year, Habtoor said.

“We are expecting this year that we have to grab a minimum of Dh25-30 billion in projects,” Al Habtoor said.

The company is eyeing airport project contracts in several countries, Habtoor said. In Turkmenistan, it is bidding for a $1.5 billion project, and has signed a preliminary agreement to build the first phase, in excess of $500 million, of a Kuwait airport.

He added the company expected to win new projects in the UAE, including an airport, and hospitals in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. “We are bidding for the airport in Abu Dhabi which is in excess of $6.5 billion,” he said.

The group is a holding company for business ranging from construction, hospitality, automotive, real estate, education, and others, run by Habtoor, who is reputedly worth $1.1 billion according to the 2009 Forbes billionaire’s list. Habtoor, who owns and operates around seven luxury hotels in the UAE and Lebanon, saw full occupancies for its hotels in the beginning of January.

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