Guernsey Press

Qatari royal family may be interested in Sark Estate

The Qatari royal family is understood to be investigating making a rival bid for the Barclay Sark Estate.

(Picture by Sophie Rabey, 32759962)

An unnamed source on the island told the Guernsey Press that representatives from the oil-rich Middle East state had visited the island at the end of this summer.

‘It is my understanding that although they were only here a short time, they had a full tour of the estate,’ they said.

‘I don’t know if they would buy the estate or be involved as a silent partner.’

They added that a bid from Qatar was more likely to be accepted than one from the Sark Property Company.

SPC’s directors, Sark Seigneur Christopher Beaumont and entrepreneur Sven Lorenz, said on Friday that they were preparing a bid to buy the estate, which makes up more than one fifth of the island, with help from 20 high-net-worth investors.

Mr Lorenz said that contacts in the financial industry had informed them that the estate had been offered for a variety of transactions to a large number of investors in the UK and further afield, including the Middle East and Asia.

‘Any potential rival bid will of course have to carefully consider the unique challenges of investing in Sark, the complexity of doing due diligence on Sark assets, and the importance of maintaining a positive relationship with the local community,’ he said.

‘The Sark Property Company is focussed on working with investors from the UK, Western Europe and North America. Also, our funding will not see any individual investor owning more than 10% of the company.’

Mr Beaumont said he would be incredibly concerned if an asset stripper came in to buy the estate, and so should Guernsey.

‘Guernsey should like the model we are suggesting, as a robust and healthy Sark is good for Guernsey,’ he said.

‘I don’t think any other investor will have that social conscience with regard to the community.’

Chief Pleas speaker and Stocks Hotel director Paul Armorgie said he was aware of stories about the Qataris and confirmed that there had recently been some ‘unusual visitors’ to the island.

‘There have been a number of rumours on the island, and there have been some interesting people in Sark this year who are not regular tourists,’ he said.

‘A purchase of this nature would concern me. Is it a question of out of the frying pan?’

However, he added that the rumour of Qatari involvement may be due to the Barclays looking for financial investment in other parts of their business empire, including taking back control of the Telegraph newspaper.

With regard to the bid from SPC, he said he welcomed it but with some caution and would like more engagement with the people of Sark. ‘The question is always where is the money coming from and who will benefit.’

Sark Estates, which manages the property portfolio bought by brothers, Sir Frederick and David Barclay between 1993 and 2008, was approached regarding the rumoured sale, but no one was available to comment.

The Guernsey Press also contacted the Qatari Royal Family, but had not received a response.