U.S. News

U.S. to sell London embassy to Qatari Diar

LONDON (Reuters) - The United States has agreed to sell its landmark embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square to Gulf investor Qatari Diar, as part of a plan to relocate to a higher-security facility outside the city center.

The purchase price for the property -- known as the Chancery -- was not disclosed. Real estate consultant Cushman & Wakefield advised the United States in the transaction.

“With the signing of this contract the United States takes another step toward relocating to a new state-of-the-art embassy which will enhance the urban fabric of London and demonstrate exceptional American architecture,” the department said in a statement posted on its website.

In October 2008, the United States signed a conditional agreement with Irish developer Ballymore Properties to acquire a site for the construction of a new embassy in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth, southwest London.

The State Department expects to announce the winner of the design competition for the new embassy in 2010. It hopes construction will begin in 2012 or 2013, with the project completing in 2016 or 2017.

The purchase is the latest in a slew of European real estate investments for Qatari Diar, the property arm of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.

“Qatari Diar currently has invested more than 3 billion pounds in the UK, and has recently said that it is willing to increase this figure to 5 billion pounds or more as part of its long-term commitment to the country,” the company said in a statement.

It said it planned to create a mixed-use development at the embassy’s site.

In September, the company appointed bankers to raise a 3.5 billion riyal ($962 million) Islamic finance facility to fund its investments in Europe.

The company, which counts London’s Chelsea Barracks among its most high-profile overseas assets, has more than 80 projects worldwide worth in total about $60 billion, Qatari Diar’s Chief Executive, Ghanim bin Saad Al Saad, said in May.

The United States will continue to occupy the Chancery until the relocation is complete.

(Reporting by Sinead Cruise, additional reporting by Daryl Loo, and Firouz Sedarat in Dubai)

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