Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has made an iconic purchase in America — a stake in the company that owns New York’s Empire State Building.
The $622-million purchase by the Qatar Investment Authority comes as the Doha fund increases its investments in the U.S. as the small country on the Arabian Peninsula tries to cope with low global oil and gas prices.
The Empire State Realty Trust Inc., which manages the 102-story, 1,454-foot (443-meter) -tall building, announced the Qatari purchase late Tuesday, saying the fund would gain a 9.9-percent stake in the company. The trust owns a total of 14 office properties and six retail properties around the New York area.
The Qatar Investment Authority did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The pointed top of the Art Deco-style Empire State Building, once the tallest structure in the world, still stands out in New York’s famed skyline. It remains a major tourist attraction and has been the centerpiece of major American films from “King Kong” to “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Tiny Qatar, an OPEC member, is a strong regional ally for Washington and hosts American bombers and the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command at its vast al-Udeid air base. Aircraft and personnel there are involved in the ongoing U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Iraq and Syria.
Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and has been on a building boom, mirroring on a smaller scale the one that gripped the United Arab Emirates’ city-state of Dubai. However, its government coffers have been hard hit by the drop of global oil prices, which have fallen from over $100 a barrel in the summer of 2014 to around $50 now.
The nation’s investment authority, estimated to be worth some $335 billion by the Las Vegas-based Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, has been increasingly eyeing opportunities in the U.S. Last September, it announced plans to open an office in New York and committed to investing $35 billion in the U.S. over the next five years.
The fund’s existing American holdings include a more than 10-percent stake in New York-based luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. It sold its share of the American film studio Miramax to Qatar-based media group beIN in March for an undisclosed sum.
Government-backed Qatar Airways, meanwhile, has been rapidly expanding its operations in the U.S., provoking a backlash from American carriers.
Also among the Qatari fund’s interests in America is a 44-percent stake in the $8.6 billion redevelopment project in New York known as Manhattan West, which includes remodeling the building that’s now home to the global headquarters of The Associated Press. The AP announced in August 2015 it planned to move from that building to another near the World Trade Center.