United Arab Emirates conglomerate Al-Habtoor Group is eyeing hotel acquisitions in London and Paris but will steer clear of investments in the Arab world outside the Gulf region, its chairman said.
Khalaf Al-Habtoor, who runs one of the UAE’s biggest family businesses with a portfolio spanning hospitality, construction, education and automotive operations, said the group was scouting for purchases in the European cities.
“We invested in the UK and we are happy about it. If there are opportunities in London and Paris, I won't hesitate to go there,” he said, speaking at the firm’s opulent headquarters, a massive white villa in a swanky Dubai neighborhood.
Al-Habtoor, ranked among the world’s 500 richest people by Forbes, bought a 2 percent stake in UK lender Barclays Bank PLC in 2008 and sold it in late 2010 at a loss. He has no plans to acquire stakes in European or U.S. banks.
He said the group also has no intention of investing in Arab countries outside the Gulf Cooperation Council states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
“It is wrong to invest in countries where there are no laws and regulation, no transparency and no protection. And that’s the Arab world,” he said.
“We will only invest in the UAE and other GCC countries of course,” he said.
Al-Habtoor unveiled plans this month to develop a new $1.33 billion hotel and entertainment complex in Dubai, despite a punishing property collapse that has sent prices plunging from their 2008 peak.
“There are positive signs of major improvement in our UAE economy. The UAE and especial Dubai is the safe haven for all investments in the region,” Al-Habtoor said.
The Dubai-based group, which has a 27.5 percent stake in a joint venture construction firm with Australia's Leighton Group, expects revenues to rise 15 percent this year in the wake of 10 percent growth between 2010 and 2011.
Its revenues mainly come from hotels, car sales and leasing and real estate.