Dubai: Abu Dhabi based businesses have got the locks on Scotland Yard ... literally. While a Lulu Group owned enterprise recently bought the Old Scotland Yard property, the first offices of London’s Metropolitan Police, the New Scotland Yard building was acquired by the Abu Dhabi Financial Group in December last year.
“It’s just a matter of coincidence ... but the underlying premise is that for UAE investment groups searching for overseas realty, Central London remains the first port of call,” said Adeeb Ahamad, CEO of Twenty14 Holdings, the specialist hospitality arm of Lulu Group. “The Old Scotland Yard (or Great Scotland Yard) property was in our sights for some years now after it was put on the market. In between, we had even decided to walk away from the deal because the quoted price was rated as being too high.
“Then we later got back into the race and clinched the deal last summer.” (Twenty14 had entered a deal with the UK developer Galliard Homes on this transaction.)
The deal was valued at an all-inclusive 110 million pounds, and will convert the property — which was even used as a British Army Recruitment centre — into a boutique hotel with 156 rooms. The opening is scheduled for the second-half of 2017.
“We have a shortlist of three names for the operator to manage the Great Scotland Yard Hotel ... the final decision will be made in Q1-16,” said Ahamad. “There could be another property that Twenty14 might consider in Central London. It’s early days, but it’s something that would be a good addition if the deal goes through.
“We are not interested in creating any residential stock in London — hospitality will be the only category that will interest us.” (This was also the Lulu Group’s second major direct investment exposure in the UK in recent times; the first was acquiring a stake in the upscale specialist retailer, the East India Co)
The current asset value on Twenty14’s books is Dh1.8 billion, which includes a new hotel in Dubai (the 20-storey, 367-room Steinberger in Business Bay) as well as those in the southern Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka.
“Our development activity will focus on any city where the tourism potential is pointed firmly in the upward direction,” said Ahamad. “In that respect, having hotels in London and Dubai is firmly in sync with our business model.
“The other thing that we will stay committed to is not to buy anything that we feel is overpriced. The entry price has to firmly stick with our entire strategy. If that is not consistent, I would rather walk away from a deal.”