Qatar’s notable ventures into the London property market are not only transforming the city’s skyline, but creating developments intended to nurture the growth of local communities and provide long-term sustainable economic opportunities
atar, as you’ve probably heard – or likely seen if you’ve happened to cast an eye over London’s ever-rising skyline recently – has been rather busy buying up significant chunks of the UK capital’s prime real estate.
What has consistently grabbed the headlines, and perhaps raised a few eyebrows, is the sheer scale of the oil-rich nation’s investments in London’s property market, and no less so, the rate by which it has been acquiring some of its most famous landmarks.
Take Canary Wharf, for example. Last year, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), purchased the well-known business district in Tower Hamlets for a cool £2.6 billion. It was a move that landed Qatar its first City property, the so-called ‘Walkie Talkie’ building, and placed a cherry on top of a spending spree that began back in 2008.
Since then, starting with the acquisition of the Chelsea Barracks, Qatar has bought ownership – either in full or in part – of London Park Lane Hotel, Number One Hyde Park, the Olympic Village, Harrods, the US Embassy, 1, 2 and 3 Cornwall Terrace, Grosvenor Waterside and the London Stock Exchange. An impressive portfolio to say the least – and that goes without even mentioning The Shard, the construction of which Qatar was also responsible.
However, behind the sensational tabloid headlines – such as the ones telling us how London is being “sold off” to Qatar – lies quite a different story. It’s a rather more untold account of how the Gulf country’s huge foreign investment has helped support Britain’s economic recovery since the global financial crash of 2008 (the year Qatar started pursuing its interests in London), as well as contributed to local communities in the city through many of its regeneration projects.
Indeed, besides injecting a huge amount of capital over a number of years into an often stuttering UK economy, Qatar’s calculated forays into London real estate have not just been profit making exercises designed to bolster the country’s wealth fund, but also create developments intended to holistically nurture the growth of local communities and provide long-term sustainable economic opportunities.
This, at least, is the ethos carried forward by Qatari Diar – the real estate arm responsible for much of Qatar’s property investment in the UK. Established in 2005, Qatari Diar has since become one of the world’s most trusted and respected real estate companies thanks to its commitment to quality, local community, partnership and hallmark sustainability. Having acquired land in some of London’s most well known locations, it is fair to say that Qatari Diar’s entire portfolio of projects in the capital have a particular focus on “legacy”.
For instance, the East Village project carried out by QDD; a joint venture between Qatari Diar, Delancey, and Triathlon Homes on the site of the former 2012 Olympic Games Athletes’ Village, is described by Qatari Diar as the “first leading legacy neighbourhood in London”. Voted ‘Best New Place to Live’ at the London Planning Awards and the Mayor’s Award for Planning Excellence 2014, East Village aims to bring together the vibrancy of city living with unrivalled outdoor space (over 10 hectares), outstanding transport connections, a school, a health centre and over 30 local shops, cafes and restaurants.
Home to more than 6,000 people, 2,818 homes are set in 67 acres of breathtaking parkland, with more than 25 acres of mature parklands, new parks and open space. Approximately 1,850 more homes are to be delivered over the next ten years within five development plots.
The company’s development at the historic site of Chelsea Barracks follows a similar sustainable pattern. Work started on the development project in Belgravia in 2014 and is designed to pay tribute to London’s architectural heritage.
Comprising a collection of apartments, penthouses and townhouses built within 12.8 acres of traditional garden squares, according to Qatari Diari, the project will “redefine luxury living in the heart of London, celebrate British heritage and craftsmanship, whilst creating a legacy for the future generations to come.”
Qatari Diar’s emphasis on endowment, then, is not just a handy marketing tool thought up around a boardroom table, but seemingly a serious commitment to the future of London’s communities. Look at any of the property developer’s projects around the city, be it Grovesnor Waterside (also in Chelsea), Southbank Place in Canary Wharf, or the Chancery Building in Mayfair – they all follow the same trend.
Of course, adding value to the local community is not Qatari Diar’s only priority. Being part of a sovereign wealth fund means its raison d’être is to generate wealth, so seeing a return on investment (ROI) also tops the agenda. Apart from being the global financial capital, London also has one of the most liquid and transparent real estate markets in the world. It’s no wonder that Qatari Diar has chosen the city for so many of its property ventures.
London offers two crucial aspects that many other cities cannot: stability and potential. With this, the combination of secure legal titles, long leases and planning frameworks have the ability to secure income investments that provide a constant stream of opportunities which are highly attractive to global investors.
Evidently, Qatari Diar – with its long term-approach and sustainable approach to investment – has been in prime position to take advantage of what Britain’s capital city has to offer. In return, London – it has to be said – stands to benefit enormously from Qatari Diar’s investments too.
by Aled Bryon, Chief Editor