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Saudi Arabia ramps up UK investment drive by acquiring stake in Rocco Forte Hotels

Sir Rocco Forte
Sir Rocco Forte, will retain a 51pc stake in the hotel group alongside his sister Olga Polizzi - SIMON DAWSON

Saudi Arabia has stepped up its investment in Britain after acquiring a 49pc stake in Sir Rocco Forte’s luxury hotels group.

Rocco Forte Hotels, which owns the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh and Brown’s in London, has struck a deal with Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which valued the business at around £1.2bn.

It comes less than a week after PIF, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, bought a 10pc stake in Heathrow Airport.

Sir Rocco, the millionaire hotel tycoon who helped to fund Boris Johnson’s 2019 election win, will retain a 51pc stake in the company alongside his sister Olga Polizzi.

They will remain as executive chairman and deputy chairman respectively.

Sir Rocco’s other four sisters will sell their stakes in the business under the deal, while Italian sovereign wealth fund CDP Equity will also offload its 23pc holding.

PIF, which is chaired by Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), already owns a string of UK assets – including Newcastle United.

Mohamed bin Salman
Mohamed bin Salman’s Public Investment Fund has been investing heavily in British assets - UAE PRESIDENTIAL COURT

It is also Aston Martin’s second-largest shareholder.

As well as increasing its exposure to the UK, the Gulf state has recently been pushing ahead with efforts to attract more tourism.

It recently created a new airline called Riyadh Air to operate alongside existing flag carrier Saudia, while PIF also bought minority stakes in hotel groups such as Aman Resorts and Habitas last year.

Sir Rocco said PIF was “an excellent partner for us going forward”, and suggested the deal would help finance a global expansion, including a push into the Middle East.

Rocco Forte Hotels, which was founded in 1996 and has 14 hotels, is expected to double in size over the next five years.

Most of its hotels are in Italy, including three in Rome and three in Sicily.

Sir Rocco said: “We have established an extremely good relationship during the course of our negotiations. They share the same vision for the brand and the future strategy of the group with the same ambition to take a long-term view.”

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