Tuesday, January 26, 2010

UAE’s Habtoor eyes European hotels

Habtoor Group, a stakeholder in Barclays plc, has hired Rothschild to identify five-star hotel targets in Europe, its chairman said yesterday.

The conglomerate, one of the United Arab Emirates’ largest family businesses, is also aiming to win up to US$8.2 billion worth of building contracts this year with Australia’s Leighton Holdings.

Habtoor, which owns hotels in the UAE, was one of several Middle East investors that bought into Barclays in 2008 as the lender looked to boost its capital to weather the global financial crisis.

‘We talked with Rothschild bank . . . about investment in Europe and especially in London and Paris for hotels if there is anything they can find so they are looking for us,’ billionaire Khalaf al-Habtoor said in an interview.

He added that the group was also looking at companies which want to sell their assets due to a lack of financial liquidity.

Mr Habtoor said in August that the group had about US$1.3 billion to invest in Europe.

The group, which rivals Dubai’s largest contractor Arabtec, has a joint venture with Leighton and has said it may float its engineering unit or the entire group in the third quarter of 2010 with possible listings in Dubai and London.

Mr Habtoor declined to comment on the potential initial public offering yesterday.

The construction firm is working on about 27 billion dirhams (S$10.3 billion) of projects in the United Arab Emirates at present and expects to bid on about 40 billion dirhams worth of projects in Abu Dhabi alone this year, Mr Habtoor said.

‘We are expecting this year that we have to grab a minimum of 25-30 billion dirhams in projects,’ he said.

The company also expects to boost its presence in Qatar as it looks to diversify revenues away from its home market.

Source: Business Times, 26 Jan 2010

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