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Qatar agrees to buy London's Grosvenor House hotel


QATAR has agreed to buy one of London's most famous hotels, the Grosvenor House, as energy revenue enables the wealthy Gulf state to go on a buying spree despite a blockade by its neighbours.

A source with knowledge of the deal said the acquisition of Grosvenor House - located on Park Lane in London's swanky Mayfair district - had been agreed on Tuesday with the vendor, private US real estate investment firm Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. The price was not disclosed.

Ashkenazy Acquisition did not respond to a request for comment and nor did the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), which is buying the hotel via its Katara Hospitality holding.

Qatar has already bought of one of New York's most iconic buildings, the Plaza Hotel, for around US$600 million.

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"There is another hotel acquisition in the works in Europe coming soon as well," the source said.

Qatar has been buying top hotels and luxury properties in the West over the past decade as part of a drive by its US$300 billion-plus sovereign wealth fund to diversify the wealth it accumulates from gas and oil exports.

Qatar, the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, already owns London's Savoy and Connaught hotels and the high-end department store Harrods.

QIA has also invested in German carmarker Volkswagen and London-listed mining giant Glencore. It has a total investment of over £30 billion (S$54 billion) in the UK and wants to expand this by £5 billion in the next few years.

The pace of Qatar's overseas investment had been expected to slow after its Gulf neighbours - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain - imposed economic sanctions on Qatar last year for allegedly supporting terrorism.

Qatar denies the allegations and says the economic boycott is an attempt to undermine its sovereignty.

It had to inject dozens of billions of dollars into its economy last year, but this year has said that the impact of the boycott has been mitigated while its economy has been boosted by strong oil and gas prices.

The Grosvenor House Hotel was built in the 1920s on the site of Grosvenor House, the former London residence of the Dukes of Westminster, whose family name is Grosvenor.

It is known for one of the largest ballrooms in Europe, the Great Room, which award ceremonies and charity balls. The Great Room was originally built as an ice-rink and in 1933, Princess Elizabeth (now the Queen of England) learned how to skate there. REUTERS

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