Yesterday, the World Cup, today Canary Wharf, tomorrow…?
Ah, that’ll look nice in the cabinet.
The gas-rich Gulf statelet of Qatar (smaller than the state of Connecticut), added to its collection of trophy investments Wednesday, as the company that owns London’s Canary Wharf financial center said its three largest shareholders (including Wall Street’s Morgan Stanley (MS)) had decided to accept an offer from the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund and its partner, Brookfields.
The 2.6 billion pounds ($4 billion) deal, which ends a months-long hostile takeover campaign, adds to the bewildering array of high-profile assets accumulated since the statelet began to develop its huge natural gas reserves some 20 years ago, alongside Miramax movie studios, soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, 17% of Volkswagen AG, 12% of Barclays Plc (BCS), and 6% of Credit Suisse AG (CS).
But it’s arguably in London where the Qatari Investment Authority feels most at home. In fact, you’re increasingly hard pushed to avoid seeing its presence in the British capital. In addition to Canary Wharf, it also owns The Shard (now the E.U.’s tallest skyscraper), the iconic Harrod’s department store in upmarket Knightsbridge, Chelsea Barracks, and the Olympic Village, built for the summer games of 2012.
Despite Songbird’s claim that the offer doesn’t reflect the group’s full value, it would appear yet again that value is, well, a relative concept. Songbird’s management failed to find a better offer despite looking around for months.
But Qatar, even with the QIA’s estimated $256 billion in assets, is still finding that it can’t always buy the love of the people whose lifestyle it’s funding, especially when it comes to its controversial hosting of the 2022 soccer World Cup.
FC Barcelona, which signed a €150 million five-year shirt sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundadtion in 2012, said late Tuesday it’s considering ending the deal in 2016 due to “social issues”, the Guardian reported.
In an interview with Catalan radio, Josep Maria Bartomeu didn’t specify what those issues were, but the twin scandals of bribery allegations around the award of the tournament and the shocking casualty statistics among the (mainly Indian and Nepali) migrant workers building the stadiums have generated a stream of negative publicity that refuses to die down.
A report released in March 2014 by the International Trade Union Confederation said up to 4,000 workers could die building Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure. It says deaths would be caused by living in squalor, drinking salty water, working excessive hours in extreme heat, and living in cramped conditions. The Guardian estimates that at least 175 Nepali and over 700 Indian workers have died there since 2010, when the tournament was awarded.
CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Qatar would host the 2018 World Cup. It has now been updated.