Saudi Arabia’s Al Jaber Seeks More Europe Hotels With Cash

Sheikh Mohamed bin Issa al Jaber, Saudi Arabia’s third-richest person, plans to expand his luxury-hotel holdings in Portugal and elsewhere in Europe as the region’s debt crisis presents a buying opportunity for investors with cash.

Al Jaber, whose JJW Hotels & Resorts Ltd owns dozens of properties including the Grand Hotel Wien in Vienna and the Hotel Balzac in Paris, said his group will focus on four- and five-star luxury hotels.

“We are looking at a lot of opportunities in Europe, including in Portugal,” Al Jaber, 54, said in a telephone interview. “Where there are difficulties, there will always be opportunities.”

MBI International & Partners Inc., the holding company founded by Al Jaber that controls JJW Hotels, in 2008 bought three resorts in the Algarve, Portugal’s southern tourist region. MBI paid Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. $268 million for the properties.

“Since 2012, JJW has invested globally more than $400 million,” he said. “I can’t tell you the amount we plan to invest in new acquisitions because that will depend on the opportunities that become available to us.”

Debt Repurchase

Al Jaber said he repurchased all of his company’s loans from Banco Comercial Portugues SA and other banks in Portugal last month. As a result, petitions to declare some of his companies in Portugal insolvent were dropped, he said.

“That has all disappeared,” he said. “Today our relationship with Banco Comercial is excellent and we plan to continue to invest in Portugal.”

Al Jaber spent as much as 100 million euros ($130 million) buying back the Portuguese debt, newspaper Jornal de Negocios reported on Feb. 14, without saying how it obtained the information. He wouldn’t comment on the amount spent.

Al Jaber is the 150th richest person worldwide with a net worth of $7.8 billion as of March 8, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index.

JJW Hotels owns the Dona Filipa Hotel and the San Lorenzo Golf Resort in the Algarve. It also owns the Penina Golf and Resort, the first five star hotel in the region, the Hotel Formosa Parque, the Pinheiros Altos Golf Resort and the Royal Algarve & Spa, which is currently under construction.

The company doesn’t need to raise additional financing for future acquisitions and there are no plans to sell shares in any of the companies controlled by MBI International, he said.

Al Jaber may sell some assets such as budget hotels that are no longer part of the group strategy of investing in luxury property, he said.

Al Jaber is the chief executive officer of MBI International, which has a net asset value of more than $9 billion, according to the company’s website.

(Adds Al Jaber’s net worth in ninth paragraph, asset sales in 12th.)
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