Colony Capital to expand in Gulf Arab region

Colony Capital, the California-based private equity real estate firm, says it will continue to expand its hospitality and consumer business in the Gulf Arab region. Colony is the largest shareholder in Carrefour, the French retail company, and has large investments in Fairmont Hotels and Accor (where it is the largest shareholder), the world’s fourth-largest hotel group.

(Reuters) – Private equity real estate firm Colony Capital will continue to expand its hospitality and consumer businesses in the Gulf Arab region, but does not see lending for real estate projects improving, an executive said.

“Our strategy in the GCC… is to take these operating platforms and expand them to take advantage of MENA-based consumption and growth in the GCC,” Thomas J Barrack, chairman and chief executive told reporters at property conference Cityscape Global on Monday.

Colony Capital is the largest shareholder in French retail giant Carrefour and has large investments in Fairmont Hotels and is the largest shareholder in Accor, the world’s fourth-largest hotel group that operates six brands in the Middle East, Barrack said.

“We have eight new Accor hotels that are being built in Saudi Arabia… we’ve got Carrefours being built in almost every GCC country,” he said. “We have tens of millions of euros of investments going into these growing platforms mostly in hospitality and consumer goods.”

“We are totally opportunistic (in terms of investments),” he said declining to say how much the firm would look to invest in the region over the next five years.

Barrack said that the level of distressed opportunities in Dubai had been moderate.

“These isolated nodes of opportunistic buying are better in a larger more predictable economy. In these controlled economies it’s a dangerous thing to try and be aggressive until you get a clear signal from the political regime saying this is where we are going.”

Barrack said that it would time for financing for real estate projects to improve.