Home Europe Qatari Shard investor to avoid Europe this year -exec – Reuters

Qatari Shard investor to avoid Europe this year -exec – Reuters


Thu Mar 14, 2013 1:04pm EDT

* To focus real-estate investments on U.S., Qatar – exec

* European market tougher because of competition, economy

* Declines comment on EFG Hermes takeover process

By Lionel Laurent

CANNES, France, March 14 (Reuters) – The real-estate arm of
Qinvest, the Qatari investment bank that helped fund London’s
Shard tower, will focus on the United States and its home market
and avoid Europe this year, a top executive said.

The European market is increasingly crowded and facing the
twin pressures of a fragile economy and fresh central bank
liquidity driving up asset prices, Qinvest head Craig Cowie told
Reuters. That is encouraging the company to channel its
approximately $200 million of available property investment
capital elsewhere, he said.

Qatari investors have been big post-financial crisis buyers
of prime European real estate, from Harrods department store in
London to the Peninsula Hotel in Paris. Qinvest has specific
limitations, however, as it is not a deep-pocketed sovereign
wealth fund and as it applies Sharia Islamic rules.

With targeted returns of up to 6 percent and over, the
bank’s plan is to focus on assets in U.S. retail – such as
single-tenant units on New York City’s Fifth Avenue – and in the
less liquid and less crowded Qatari market.

“This year we are going to try and do a little bit more in
Qatar and the North American market,” Cowie said in an interview
on the sidelines of the MIPIM property conference in Cannes.
“The European market is just getting very crowded again.”

Qinvest is a unit of Qatar Islamic Bank and is in
the process of taking over Egyptian investment bank EFG Hermes
, though regulators have yet to approve the deal.

Cowie declined to comment on the situation beyond saying it
was up to the regulator to decide. If the deal goes ahead, given
that EFG does not have a real estate operation, Cowie said his
division would probably continue investing as before.

Qinvest’s European investments, including the Shard and
industrial property assets in Paris, were acquired around two
years ago at a time when debt was harder to come by and when
financially robust investors were in shorter supply, Cowie said.

The bank has since sold its stake in the Shard.

“There’s lots of new equity washing around – Chinese,
Malaysian, North American,” he said. “It’s a lot more crowded
and harder to do off-market or discreet deals. It’s tougher to

Cowie, a South African who previously worked for Al Rajhi
in Saudi Arabia before joining Qinvest, also said that
uncertain growth prospects were pressuring returns in Western
Europe and putting the brakes on activity elsewhere.

“The world is still fragile … Some parts of Europe are
completely stalled,” he added.

Qatari Shard investor to avoid Europe this year -exec – Reuters

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