From Qatar with Love: Designed by the Superstar Italian Architect Renzo Piano, and Towering over the South Bank of the Thames, London's New Skyscraper, the Shard, Is, at 310 Metres, the Tallest Building in Western Europe. Backed by Qatari Financing, the Steel and Glass Masterwork Is Seen as a Symbol of the Gulf State's Growing Financial and Political Power

By Kan, Charlotte | The Middle East, July 2012 | Go to article overview
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From Qatar with Love: Designed by the Superstar Italian Architect Renzo Piano, and Towering over the South Bank of the Thames, London's New Skyscraper, the Shard, Is, at 310 Metres, the Tallest Building in Western Europe. Backed by Qatari Financing, the Steel and Glass Masterwork Is Seen as a Symbol of the Gulf State's Growing Financial and Political Power


Kan, Charlotte, The Middle East


Glistening in the London cityscape on the South bank of the Thaines, close to many historical attractions, the Shard is the British capital's new iconic landmark, and the centrepiece of the regenerated London Bridge Quarter. The pyramid-shaped, 72-floor tower is a mixed-use development that will be inaugurated by Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, Qatar's Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Britain's Duke of York on 5 July. Visitors that day will be able to discover the Shard's 27 floors of offices, three floors of fine dining restaurants, an 18-floor, five-star Shangri-La hotel with 200 "luxuriously-appointed rooms", as well as "an exclusive collection of apartments".

The Shard is a unique project, developed by London-based property developer the Sellar Group, and financed by the State of Qatar, which is a 95% investor. Sheikh Abdullah bin Saoud Al Thani, Governor of Qatar Central Bank and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Shard Funding Limited, said that the new skyscraper is "an enduring symbol of the close ties between Qatar and the United Kingdom and joins a broad investment portfolio that highlights the synergy between our countries, pointing out that the relatively fast completion of this project is a significant milestone".

Qatar says its investment in the Shard also embodies the "Qatar 2030" vision, the state's road map to diversify its oil- and gas-reliant economy. It is one of several investments made by the Gulf state in London's sought-after real estate market. Qatar also recently financed the redevelopment of the Chelsea Barracks, located only a few miles upstream from the tower, in yet another illustration of the growing appetite of the Qataris for prestigious UK projects.

Jonathan Lawrence, who advises on Islamic finance transactions at law firm K&L Gates in London, believes Qatari investments in the London real estate market make a lot of financial sense, as they enable the Gulf state to invest in tangible, value-holding assets. However, he also sees it as a way for the Gulf state to exert some sort of political or cultural influence. "There has also been an element of Middle Eastern investors exercising their 'soft power' and seeking to spread influence by investing in high profile real estate projects and world-famous hotels and office buildings," he answers, when asked to explain why Gulf states like Qatar seem so keen to snap up London's 'hot' real estate projects. More proof that the Gulf state may use the Shard for "soft diplomacy" purposes is a recent scoop from Reuters, according to which Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera is in advanced talks to move into the skyscraper. The TV company is currently headquartered in Knightsbridge, not far from Harrods, the luxury store also owned by Qatar. This is not merely a coincidence, according to many observers.

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Long historical relationship

Dr Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, research fellow at the London School of Economics, notes that Qatari investors like to finance projects in the British capital due to the close relationship between the two countries, whose respective royal families are said to get on extremely well.

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From Qatar with Love: Designed by the Superstar Italian Architect Renzo Piano, and Towering over the South Bank of the Thames, London's New Skyscraper, the Shard, Is, at 310 Metres, the Tallest Building in Western Europe. Backed by Qatari Financing, the Steel and Glass Masterwork Is Seen as a Symbol of the Gulf State's Growing Financial and Political Power
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