London theme park project proves popular with Middle Eastern investors

London theme park project proves popular with Middle Eastern investors
The London Resort was launched by Kuwait backers but has seen healthy interest from private investors. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 December 2020

London theme park project proves popular with Middle Eastern investors

London theme park project proves popular with Middle Eastern investors
  • The London Resort was launched by Kuwait backers but has seen healthy interest from private investors
  • The theme park will be the first major project of its kind in Europe since Disneyland Paris opened in 1992

The London Resort, a $2.6-billion, high-profile theme park development backed by Kuwaiti money, has proved popular with Middle Eastern investors in the Gulf Cooperation Council and the UK, an investment broker told Arab News following a recent visit to the region.

“Generally speaking, those whom we’ve spoken to have been of Middle Eastern origin,” said James Hayward, investment director at London-based investment brokerage Farrbury Capital Partners.

“We market globally... We still have healthy investment in the UK, although I would also say those who invest from the UK have been predominantly of Middle Eastern descent. It is very, very popular in this neck of the woods. So that’s predominantly where we are seeing investment coming from,” he added.

The London Resort was launched in October 2012 by the London Resort Company Holdings and is backed by the Kuwaiti European Holding Group.

Located on a 535-acre site on Kent’s Swanscombe peninsula, 17 minutes on the train from Central London, it has struck content agreements with international media partners, including the BBC, ITV Studios and Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures. The deals will see the partners’ media brands transformed into theme park rides and attractions. The first phase of the project is due to open in 2024.

The theme park will be the first major project of its kind in Europe since Disneyland Paris opened in 1992. “The only thing that was ever close to this was Disneyland Paris, which 30 years ago was all institutional money anyway. It is the first time something like this has been open to private investment,” Hayward said.

In Dubai last month for the Cityscape real estate exhibition, Hayward said there was healthy interest in the hospitality investments on offer, where investors can buy rooms or whole floors in one of only four hotels on-site at the park.

Hayward said potential investors in Dubai ranged from those looking to buy a single room from £370,000 ($490,000) plus VAT to large-scale hoteliers and developers looking to buy entire floors or buildings.

“The last meeting I had was actually with a hotel group. They build and operate their own hotels, and they’re looking for the institutional purchase of one, or potentially two, of the hotels that we have available. So, we’ve got a 400 and 433-key hotel and they’re potentially looking to invest and wholesale purchase one, or both, with a view to instruct their own contractors and operate it themselves,” Hayward said.

When complete, The London Resort is aiming to attract 8.2 million visitors a year. While the annual Cityscape Dubai real estate showcase was more subdued this year due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Hayward said he was happy with the level of demand he witnessed during his visit.

“The demand in the Middle East from our point of view has actually been very good, considering the crisis we are currently in, and it’s only set to increase,” he said.


Qatar National Bank sees gradual growth in Saudi Arabia after end of rift

Qatar National Bank sees gradual growth in Saudi Arabia after end of rift
Updated 13 min 31 sec ago

Qatar National Bank sees gradual growth in Saudi Arabia after end of rift

Qatar National Bank sees gradual growth in Saudi Arabia after end of rift
  • QNB opened its branch in Riyadh in May 2017, just a month before the dispute erupted
  • Bank would rebuild its information technology infrastructure and the banking team

DUBAI: Qatar National Bank (QNB), Gulf’s biggest bank by assets, expects its business in Saudi Arabia will pick up only gradually after reviving its Riyadh branch that was dormant for more than three years due to a diplomatic and economic rift.
A QNB executive made the comments to analysts on Monday after Riyadh announced a deal on Jan. 5 to end the dispute with Doha that forced Qatari firms to halt business in the kingdom and its airline to reroute flights around Saudi airspace.
QNB opened its branch in the Saudi capital in May 2017, just a month before the dispute erupted.
QNB Group Chief Financial Officer Ramzi Mari told analysts that the impact of reopening its Riyadh branch would be gradual, analysts who joined the call said.
The bank would rebuild its information technology infrastructure and the banking team in Riyadh, Mari said, according to the analysts who did not give further details.
QNB declined to comment.
Saudi Arabia, along with United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt suspended diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar denied the charges and said the embargo was meant to undermine its sovereignty.
Qatar National Bank last week reported a drop in annual profit of more than 16 percent, hit by $1.6 billion in impairments during a year when the region’s economy was affected by the coronavirus outbreak.