00:36 GMT +320 July 2018
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    Boycott? What Boycott? Qatar Buys New York’s Famed Plaza Hotel

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    Qatar’s state-owned Katara Holding is buying the famous Plaza Hotel in New York City, previously owned by Donald Trump and a Saudi prince.

    The Plaza Hotel, immortalized in many movies, including Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest," the 1991 drama "Scent of a Woman" starring Al Pacino and, of course, "Home Alone 2," in which Donald Trump himself, the hotel's owner at the time, makes a cameo, is going to become a Qatari property.

    State-owned Katara Holding is buying full ownership of the property, including the 75 percent stake owned by Indian business group Sahara India Pariwar, for some $600 million, according to a Reuters report citing an unnamed source close to the deal. The deal was confirmed by the Wall Street Journal.

    While $600 million is a hefty sum, it's much less than the $920 million that Israeli tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva made when his real estate firm, the El-Ad Group, sold its stake in the hotel in 2012.

    Quite the drama preceded this deal over the last few months. First, Dubai-based Shahal Khan partnered with New York City landlord Kamran Hakim for a $600 million bid this spring, but they were shut out when New York-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation and Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Holding Company reportedly exercised their right of first offer with a $600 million bid of their own, according to The Real Deal.

    Then, in June, United Capital Real Estate reportedly filed a lawsuit against Sahara claiming they went into contract to buy the Plaza back in February, but were misled by Sahara, who was secretly negotiating a separate deal.

    Qatar, the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), has been buying hotel properties in the West for a decade already, in an attempt to diversify the wealth it accumulates from selling hydrocarbons, Haaretz reports. According to the report, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has also invested in various Western companies, including automaker Volkswagen and mining giant Glencore.

    The flow of Qatari investment has been slowed somewhat by a boycott imposed last year by a group of Persian Gulf states — including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — on the premise that Doha supports terrorism, an allegation that Qatar has repeatedly denied.

    However, at this point the impact of the boycott has been mitigated, Doha authorities say, and investment operations have resumed, including the purchase of a stake in Russian oil company Rosneft.

    The Plaza Hotel, however, would be the largest Qatari purchase in the Western market since the beginning of the blockade.

    Trump, now president of the United States, bought the hotel back in 1988, and owned it for two decades before selling it to Saudi businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who remained a minority shareholder until the Qatari purchase, Haaretz reported. The hotel, whose past guests include the Beatles and actress Marlene Dietrich, was also the place of Trump's marriage to Marla Maples in 1993.

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    Tags:
    property, purchase, Plaza Hotel, Donald Trump, UAE, United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia
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