Qatar plans to turn Harrods, its luxury London department store, into an international hotel brand as it starts to convert trophy assets into global businesses.
Qatar Holding, the owner of the renowned Knightsbridge store, intends to open Harrods hotels in Kuala Lumpur, New York, Paris and in China.
The company will focus on sites already owned by it or its affiliates such as Chelsea Barracks in London or Costa Smeralda in Sardinia, Italy. "Qatar Holding ultimately intends to grow Harrods into a global enterprise that defines the luxury retail and leisure sectors," the company said in a statement yesterday.
Harrods was bought by Qatar Holding in 2010 for about £1.5 billion (Dh8.63bn) from Mohamed Al Fayed, the Egyptian tycoon whose son Dodi was killed with Princess Diana in a 1997 car crash in Paris.
The store favoured by celebrities and the super rich is just one of several high-profile acquisitions made in the United Kingdom's capital, including Chelsea Barracks and One Hyde Park. Tomorrow the Qatari prime minister is expected to open the latest jewel in his country's crown - the 72-storey Shard tower in central London that is Europe's tallest building.
"This is an example of Qatar promoting itself globally through an associated brand, much as Abu Dhabi promoted itself globally in a different way through its acquisition of and association with Manchester City Football Club," said Stephen Flanagan, the director of professional services at Knight Frank, the international property consultancy.
Yesterday Qatar Holding signed an agreement to explore the development of a Harrods hotel in the Bukit Bintang neighbourhood of Kuala Lumpur.
The branded hotel concept has gained ground in the Arabian Gulf as operators seek to stand out from rival groups in an increasingly crowded luxury hospitality sector.
Missoni, Armani and Versace have all branded hotels in the Gulf. This week the Dubai owner of the Queen Elizabeth 2 also disclosed plans to convert the Cunard liner into a 300-bedroom luxury hotel in the city's Port Rashid.
Harrods did not identify potential locations in the Gulf for its new hotel concept but analysts point to strong regional appetite for the branded hotel concept.
"Harrods is a popular and respected brand with people from the Middle East and it would be no surprise to see this concept work in the GCC," added Mr Flanagan.