Viewpoint – Did anyone hear about the Empire State Building?

Categories: Viewpoint

With surprisingly little fanfare, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) recently purchased a 9.9% stake in New York’s Empire State Building for a reported US$622 million. A not insignificant amount of money.

While more accurately they bought a stake in the Empire State Realty Trust, which owns a total of 14 office properties and six retail properties in New York, the headline is the iconic Empire State Building itself, the tallest building in the world from 1931 to 1970 and an undoubted icon of the New York skyline.

This doesn’t seem dissimilar to the Qataris buying London’s Harrods in 2010, which made the sovereign wealth fund a household name here in the UK. However, checking with my US colleagues in Chicago, none of them had heard of the QIA’s latest acquisition, and we like to think that we have our ears to the ground!

I know that Islamic investment into US real estate and infrastructure has occasionally been an emotional issue, with Donald Trump not helping matters at present, but the QIA’s reported intention to invest US$35 billion in the US over the next five years is significant. With Trump of course having a material real estate portfolio of his own, perhaps he could in time see the value of such investment.

Could more publicity in the US have prompted a backlash from the US public? I guess the outcome of the US election in November will give us a clue to that one, but to me it seems that familiarity and associated positive commentary as to the major advantages of this level of investment could only help. Who’s doing the public relations for Islamic investors in the US?