Browsing 'us' News

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The Manhattan skyline

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is now among the top property owners in New York, a new report has found.

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), which also owns a great deal of real estate in Europe’s London and Paris, now holds some 10.69 million square feet of real estate in New York.

That’s up 145 percent from March of last year, according to commercial real estate intelligence group CoStar.

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Empire State Building in New York

This now makes the QIA the ninth largest property holder in the state.

Crain’s New York reports that this in large part due to the QIA’s $622 million investment in the company that owns the Empire State Building.

The August purchase gained the QIA a 9.9 percent stake in the Empire State Realty Trust, which manages what used to be the world’s tallest skyscraper.

The firm also has more than a dozen other office and retail properties, mostly in Manhattan.

Shifting strategy

The QIA has increased oversight on spending in recent years, and has been looking to buy more assets in the US and Asia after traditionally focusing on European markets.

Wealth fund officials have previously said they would invest $35 billion in the US by 2020.

And analysts take this to mean New York property will continue to attract the fund’s attention.

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Photo of London for illustrative purposes only.

Speaking to Crain’s, Michael Maduell, president of the Las Vegas-based research group the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, said:

“Internationally, New York real estate is a safe place to park assets. And wealth funds are sometimes willing to pay more for assets than real estate fund managers. They’re buying assets for the long term—like 20 to 30 years.”

That said, Qatari officials have recently pledged to invest £5 billion on the UK’s economy as it prepares to leave the European Union.

The investment will take place over the next three to five years, and be directed at real estate and infrastructure, among other things.

Qatar already owns the Shard, the Olympic Village and Canary Wharf, among other properties.

Thoughts?

Lesley Walker / Doha News

US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith at the election results reception

US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith raised eyebrows this week after posting a tweet that appeared to criticize President Donald Trump and his government.

Smith, a career diplomat who began her Doha post in 2014, tweeted that it was becoming “increasingly difficult” to explain US democracy and institutions to others.

The post came just a few hours after news broke that Trump had fired FBI director James Comey. The FBI had been investigating potential ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign team and Russian officials.

The US Embassy has not yet responded to a request for comment about the tweet.

But the message has gotten nearly 10,000 likes on Twitter. However, it also drew criticism from people who said it was inappropriate for diplomats to criticize the president.

In apparent response to the backlash, Smith explained the next day that she is regularly called upon “to explain and defend” her nation’s political system.

She added that this is particularly difficult “when partisan acrimony is so high.”

A career diplomat

Shortly after Trump was sworn in as president in January, he fired all US Ambassadors who had been directly appointed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

MOFA

Assistant Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al Meraikhi with US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith.

However, Smith remained in her post, as she was not a political appointment.

At the time, the US Embassy in Qatar told Doha News that as such, Smith “looked forward to continuing her service to the United States as Ambassador to Qatar under the next Administration.”

Strong ties

Many in the US and internationally were shocked when Trump won the election in November, instead of his opponent Hillary Clinton.

At the time, the US Embassy held an early breakfast reception at the W Doha to watch the results coming in.

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US President Donald Trump

Smith wore a cream-colored pant suit – a possible nod to Clinton’s outfit of choice – and sought to reassure people about Qatar-US ties, saying:

“Our relationship is strong today and will continue to be after our next president is inaugurated.”

Smith is fluent in Arabic and has served in the UAE, Jordan, Israel, the Gaza Strip, Egypt and Taiwan during her time with the US State Department.

Thoughts?

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar Airways plans to fly to some 26 new destinations in the coming year, including to the northern California city of San Francisco, the airline has announced.

Other new routes include Cardiff, UK; Utapao, Thailand; Chittagong, Bangladesh; Mykonos, Greece; Málaga, Spain; Accra, Ghana; Lisbon, Portugal; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Prague, Czech Republic; Kiev, Ukraine and Mombasa, Kenya, the airline said in a statement.

The 12 routes will all launch in 2018, and are in addition to 14 already announced destinations for 2017-2018.

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The view from Mount Taylor, Canberra

Those include Dublin, Rio de Janeiro, Canberra in Australia, Santiago in Chile and Medan in Indonesia.

Speaking to reporters at the annual Arabian Travel Market in Dubai this week, CEO Akbar Al Baker said that if the airline’s aircraft orders come in on time, all 26 new routes will begin by March 2018.

That’s the end of Qatar’s financial year.

US routes

Qatar Airways already flies nonstop from Doha to 10 US cities, including Los Angeles.

It also has plans to launch a route to Las Vegas early next year, though this has now been pushed back to the second quarter of 2018, Bloomberg reports.

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The new US destinations come despite a drop in bookings following a new electronics ban onboard planes flying directly from the Middle East to the states.

According to AP, Al Baker said the airline was not deterred by recent events, including questions about potential visa bans on certain passengers.

“Qatar Airways does not plan and will not reduce frequencies to the United States. I am sure that these uncertainties that passengers have soon could be resolved by statements from the United States’ government.”

Cardiff

While both of Qatar Airways’ Gulf competitors already fly to San Francisco, Qatar will be the first to launch a direct service to Cardiff, the capital of Wales.

The airline has not yet disclosed how many times per week it plans to fly to the city.

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Cardiff Castle

However, the route should also allow Qatar Airways to reach new customers who have previously been unable to fly long-haul from their local airport.

According to Cardiff Airport, more than 1 million passengers travel every year from Wales to destinations that are on the Qatar Airways network, and more than 90 percent of these currently have to travel via London.

Cardiff will be the airline’s fifth current UK route, in addition to London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

Thoughts?