x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Qatari venture tipped for UK project

Qatari Diar and the Qatar-backed Canary Wharf Group are the frontrunners to redevelop Royal Dutch Shell's headquarters site in London

Kevin Brass

A Qatari-backed partnership is the frontrunner to win one of the most prized redevelopment deals in London.

Royal Dutch Shell is expected to pick Canary Wharf Group along with Qatari Diar, the property investment arm of Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, to build office towers, retail space and apartments on the oil giant's 2.1-hectare headquarters site near Waterloo station in the British capital.

Canary Wharf Group is owned by Songbird Estates, a development company 27 per cent owned by the Qatar Investment Authority.

The Shell site is seen as a key part of redeveloping the area along the southern bank of the Thames, which is home to the London Eye Ferris wheel.

"[The site] has been waiting to be unlocked for a very long time," said Mat Oakley, the head of commercial research for Savills in London.

Shell has discussed redeveloping the area since 1997, but plans had stalled until last year when the company started actively seeking a development partner.

Shell has not yet named a redevelopment partner, but published reports and local property executives have pinpointed Canary Wharf Group and Qatari Diar as the likely choice. An announcement is expected within the next two weeks.

Little of the construction that has reshaped the London skyline in recent years has taken place in the area around the Shell building.

But the South Bank is attracting new attention, particularly with the construction of the Shard, the city's tallest building, which is funded by Qatari Diar.

With few new buildings available, the vacancy rate for office space in the South Bank area is 2.1 per cent, one of the lowest in the city, according to CB Richard Ellis.

"That area is relatively undeveloped with modern office space," Mr Oakley said.

The Shell project is one of several redevelopments schemes under way in the South Bank, in addition to the Shard.

This week, Sellar property group, the Shard's developer, announced plans to build a 17-storey office complex opposite the Shard. The list of South Bank projects also includes the mixed-use Elizabeth House redevelopment project, near the Shell headquarters, which calls for two buildings of 25 and nine storeys.

"Combined with Shell Centre, these two schemes will completely regenerate the [Waterloo] area," said Kevin McCauley, the director of Central London research for CB Richard Ellis.

Qatari interests own Harrods and helped to develop One Hyde Park, the Kensington complex touted as the most expensive apartment development in the city.

kbrass@thenational.ae