The investment arm of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has bought the world famous department store Harrods from Mohamed al-Fayed in a deal reported to be worth around £1.5bn. Qatar Holding, the prime vehicle for strategic and direct investments by the State of Qatar, would not confirm the exact figure but said there were plans to upgrade the luxury store, popular with tourists and an historic landmark in the upmarket Knightsbridge area of London.
The country’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who is also chairman of Qatar Holding said, “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”. He said it will create a “road map” to upgrade Harrods in the next few months. Harrods could also become a global franchise with Qatar Holding expected to back an expansion programme into new areas including China. Harrod’s Managing Director Michael Ward, who will retain his position said, “There are a huge number of opportunities for the group. There are selective areas of the world in which we will develop”.
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 grand-children,” Ken Costa, chairman of Lazard International, said in a statement on Saturday. 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 $60bn 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’s other investments include stakes in Sainsbury’s, the London Stock Exchange and Credit Suisse.