London mayor expects ‘spacecraft full of bullion’ from Arabian Gulf to land in his city

Arabian Gulf investors are set to snap up more prime London real estate, according to its mayor Boris Johnson, who envisages “gigantic spacecraft full of bullion” continuing to land on his city despite painfully low oil prices.

Mr Johnson, who is known for his colourful turns of phrase, said investors from the region were considering further purchases in the area used for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Qatari Diar, the Gulf state’s investment arm, and a UK-based property firm already jointly own 1,400 flats at the Olympic Village – bought for a knockdown price of £557 million (Dh3.17 billion) in 2011, in a move that caused some controversy.

Further Gulf investments in the Olympics area are in the pipeline, Mr Johnson told The National on the sidelines of the Telegraph Middle East Congress in London. “You might see some more on the Olympic Park,” he said. “There’s lots going on.”

Qatar is one of the most prominent foreign investors in London, owning swaths of prime real estate across the city. It owns The Shard building – the tallest in the capital – the department store Harrods, and has just sealed a deal to buy the Canary Wharf financial district for £2.6bn.

Mr Johnson told the conference – where Mohammed Al Otaiba, editor-in-chief of The National, moderated a panel discussion on Thursday – that Gulf investment in London will continue despite oil prices having been cut in half.

“Relations between Britain and the Gulf go back more than 100 years,” he said. “Despite what’s happened to the oil price, there are still substantial sums of cash floating around the world, in sovereign wealth funds and elsewhere, which are looking for very good, safe places to land.”

And despite its geographical distance, London will keep its honorary position as a key part of the Gulf region, Mr Johnson added.

“I don’t see any other European capital, or any other global capital challenging London’s unofficial title as the ‘eighth emirate’,” he said.

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Ben Flanagan

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