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Telegraph scrutiny unlikely to deter Gulf investors in UK

Visitors overlook the Houses of Parliament. The UK government is working towards a free trade agreement with the GCC Unsplash/Pablo Martinez
Visitors look at the Houses of Parliament. The UK is working on a free trade deal with the GCC
  • Gulf-UK investment is strong
  • UAE has invested £17bn
  • Free trade talks ongoing

Gulf investment in the UK is unlikely to be affected by the British government’s probe into an Abu Dhabi-backed plan to buy the Telegraph newspaper, a leading official has said.

Oliver Christian, UK trade commissioner for the Middle East and Pakistan, told AGBI that Emirati investments into the UK to date have exceeded £16-17 billion ($20-21 billion), adding that the relationship was “really important”.

“The investment speaks for itself,” he said. “We have very strong relationships with the UAE.”

Trade performance between the UAE and the UK was the strongest among GCC countries in the year to the end of September 2023, after rising by more than 21 percent to over £25 billion.

“There are elements of the UK system, like the national security and investment legislation, which is statute that we need to work through,” Christian added.

“We work with investors in the Middle East to outline exactly what the processes are and continue to talk with each other so that we can work together on delivering those kind of investments.”

If the deal goes ahead, the RedBird IMI consortium would obtain equity in the Telegraph and The Spectator, a weekly magazine. RedBird IMI is partly funded by International Media Investments of the UAE, which owns newspaper The National, Sky News Arabia and Al-Ain News.

Last month the British government set out its decision to intervene in the proposed takeover on public interest grounds, asking the Competition and Markets Authority and media watchdog Ofcom to look at whether RedBird IMI’s deal would affect freedom of expression and accuracy.

The investigators are expected to submit their report by March 11.

British government officials are also working with their counterparts in the Gulf on a UK-GCC free trade agreement.

The sixth round of negotiations, which took place earlier this month in London, advanced the draft treaty text “across the majority of chapters”, a statement from the UK government said.

It added that a seventh round of talks would be scheduled shortly and both sides “remain committed to securing an ambitious, comprehensive and modern agreement fit for the 21st century”.

Trade between the UK and Gulf countries rose by nearly 8 percent in the year to the end of September 2023, compared with the year-earlier period.

According to latest figures released by the Department for Business and Trade, total trade amounted to nearly £59 billion, compared with about £54.5 billion for the same period in 2022.

Energy exports from the GCC to the UK still make up a significant component to trade, with nearly £8 billion of refined oil and more than £2 billion of gas.

The UK’s largest export to GCC countries is power generators, worth nearly £4 billion.

Elsewhere across the GCC, trade growth with Saudi Arabia increased by nearly 18 percent. Kuwait and Oman also recorded double-digit rises, albeit on much lower trade figures.

Trade between the UK and Qatar fell by nearly 30 percent on the back of a huge drop in gas exports from the Gulf state, which fell from more than £6 billion in the year to March 2023 to £2.2 billion in the 12 months to September.

Bahrain’s trade with the UK also dropped, by 23 percent.

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