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Qatar eyes Paris's iconic Printemps department store

Photo: AFP
3 min

After buying out the Paris Saint-Germain football club and investing heavily in major French energy and media firms, the Gulf state of Qatar could soon own Paris’s iconic Printemps department store.


For some it is as emblematic of Paris as the Eiffel Tower, but the Printemps department store could soon become the property of the small Gulf state of Qatar. On Friday, Philippe Houzé, chief executive of rival department store Galeries Lafayette, revealed that he would negotiate with Qatari investors for a joint buy-out of the iconic Parisian retailer.

With its towering golden domes, Printemps, French for “Spring” (the season), is a shrine of French shopping. It opened its doors in 1865 on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris’s 9th district. It can be compared to New York City’s Macy’s on 34th street and London’s Harrods department store.

Houzé said his business group had already made a bid worth 1.8 billion euros to purchase Printemps, but the offer was rejected, in an interview with the conservative daily Le Figaro out on Friday.

“We are going to propose to the Qataris that we purchase Printemps together. My idea is to combine the Qataris' expertise in real estate with our own in managing large stores,” Houzé said.

Printemps is 70 percent owned by Deutsche Bank real estate investment unit RREEF and 30 percent by the Italian-owned Borletti Group.

The two bought Printemps in 2006 for 1.1 billion euros, but RREEF is officially attempting to divest from the venture. Borletti is attempting to cling to the store, also turning to Qatari investors for missing funds, according to the Reuters news agency.

Qatari 'invasion' continues

While no deal has been made yet, it appeared Qatar would be a part of an eventual acquisition, thus extending the oil-rich state’s influence or outright ownership of significant French businesses and landmarks.

The May 2011 buy-out of the French capital’s premier football club, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), has received wide attention in France and abroad, but PSG is just a small territory in a fast growing empire.

In October 2009, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) purchased 35,000 square metres of prime real estate in Paris’ Champs Elysées. Many other real estate sales have followed. In May 2012 a Qatari investor purchased four large hotels, including the famed Hotel Martinez in the Mediterranean resort city of Cannes.

Coupled with the purchase of luxury and often iconic spaces, is an aggressive campaign to buy significant shares in some of France’s more recognisable and important companies.

Between April 2010 and September 2011, Qatar Diar, the real estate arm of QIA, invested 663 million euros in Veolia to control more than 5% of the environment services giant. Three months later Qatar Holdings LLC bought 10% of shares in the media group Legardère.

In March 2012, Qatar bought 2% of shares in oil giant Total and 1% of shares in the luxury label LVMH, a conglomerate that unites the renowned French brands Louis Vuitton and Hennessy cognac.

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