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Mon, Oct 12, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Qatar’s sovereign fund boosts stake in UK property firm

AP , DUBAI

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund said on Saturday it has become the biggest shareholder in the company that owns much of London’s Canary Wharf business district, highlighting a renewed appetite by Gulf investors for property in well-established markets.

Qatar Holding said it has increased its holding to 24 percent of the ordinary shares of the real estate company, Songbird Estates PLC.

It said its entire investment in Songbird now stands at more than US$559 million.

“We are pleased to have taken this opportunity to increase our stake in an outstanding prime real estate portfolio with stable long-term income and high caliber management,” said Ahmad al-Sayed, Qatar Holding’s chief executive and managing director.

Qatar Holding is the investment arm of the natural gas-rich Arab state’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.

Its holdings include stakes in European banks Barclays PLC and Credit Suisse Group, British supermarket operator J Sainsbury PLC and the London Stock Exchange.

The fund’s stake in Songbird includes participation in a debt financing deal for the property company. In exchange for the financing, Qatar Holding will have the right to further increase its stake in Songbird at a later date.

Qatar Holding will also get three seats on Songbird’s board, and one on the board of Canary Wharf Group, of which Songbird will own nearly 70 percent.

“We believe the very positive response to the offering shows the improving sentiment towards UK commercial property in recent weeks as well as the attractiveness of this transaction,” al-Sayed said.

The Canary Wharf financial district in east London provides office space for several major banks, including HSBC and Barclays.

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