3/6/2013 1:57 PM ET|
Qatar's royal family bags some bargain Greek islands
The emir's purchase also signals stronger financial ties between the oil-rich Gulf state and Europe's most-bankrupt country.
Qatar's royal family is doing just that. It's buying six Greek islands in the Ionian Sea for a mere $11 million (€8.5million) to create a private family resort. The deal is one of the largest private investments ever in Greece, whose ongoing debt crisis has made it the European Union's most bankrupt country.
And the emir of Qatar apparently knows how to drive a hard bargain. The first of the islands for sale, uninhabited Oxia, was originally offered at $9.13 million (€7 million) before its owner agreed to $6.93 million (€4.9 million).
"The islands have been in my family for over 150 years but we are not rich enough to be able to keep such valuable properties any longer," Denis Grivas told The Guardian. He cited the sky-high property taxes he's been paying since the start of the Greek debt crisis and deep recession: "We are very, very happy to see them go. They have been on the market for nearly 40 years."
Greece's government is apparently happy to have attracted investment from oil-rich Qatar. The Financial Times reports the sale of Oxia came four weeks after Greek Premier Antonis Samaras flew to Qatar to rebuild financial ties with the wealthy Gulf state.
"Our country offers important investment opportunities," Samaras recently told SETimes.com. "We experienced a dramatic crisis but it has made us wiser, more decisive and stronger."
And along with supplying personal playgrounds for Qatari royalty, analysts see the stronger economic ties as an economic lifeline for Greece. According to The Economist, Qatar is also looking to develop a large coastal site in Athens and possibly having the Greek capital as the European hub for its national airline, Qatar Airways.
"Qatar has invested a lot of funds in Italy, France and now they see Greece as an opportunity to invest [because of the recession] and prices are low in various sectors," John Nomikos, who heads the Athens-based Research Institute in European and American Studies, told SETimes.
"The Qataris know the capitalist model very well and they also know that Greece will recover from recession in the future," he added, "so their investment is going to offer them profits."
Don't think, however, the emir's representatives had an easy time with the actual purchase of the Greek islands. The deal took about 18 months to finalize.
"Greece is that kind of place," Ioannis Kassianos, the Greek-American mayor of Ithaca, told the Guardian. Ithaca has administrative responsibility for Oxia. "Even when you buy an island, even if you are the emir of Qatar, it takes a year and a half for all the paperwork to go through."
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