Saudi Arabia is plotting the takeover of the iconic Selfridges department store in London’s Oxford Street in an effort to increase its international influence and boost the development of its economy, the Telegraph has revealed. Riyadh is said to have emerged as the private financial backer of a $5.1 billion purchase of the luxury store. If the deal is completed, the acquisition will seal the Kingdom’s third high profile takeover of famous British brands
The takeover is being plotted using Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), valued at $642bn. It is being pursued through a European intermediary, Austrian property company Signa Holding. The Saudi PIF is the primary vehicle of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for his vision to modernise the Kingdom.
The PIF move to buy Selfridges is similar to the method employed in high-profile purchases such as its majority share in Newcastle United Football Club. Riyadh is also the second-largest shareholder in Aston Martin cars.
Selfridges has, however, denied the reports. In a statement issued to MEMO the press office said: “Selfridges Group was acquired by Central Group and Signa Holding in August 2022. As reported in The Telegraph, PIF was a minority private financial backer of the Signa Holding vehicle that acquired a 50% stake in Selfridges last August. There is no change to the ownership of Selfridges Group.”
With the rise of the crown prince as the de-facto ruler, the extent of Saudi Arabi’s foreign acquisitions has been limited only by its ambition, which as recent deals have indicated, shows no sign of decreasing. Using the Kingdom’s massive oil wealth, the PIF has taken stakes in an array of major Western technology and entertainment companies, as well as financial institutions.
Reports that French international footballer Kylian Mbappe is being lined up by Al-Hilal FC for $333 million is the latest indication of the eye-watering amounts of money that Saudi Arabia is pouring into its so-called soft diplomacy. Alongside the rumoured purchase of Mbappe, Saudi football clubs have been on a major spending spree to bring football stars from other major European leagues as well as to attract major sporting events, including cricket and golf, to the Kingdom.
With Qatar’s purchase of Harrods in 2010, the Saudi takeover of Selfridges will complete the acquisition of Britain’s major department stores by the Gulf states.
Updated on 26 July 2023 at 11.05GMT to include Selfridges’ denial of the report