Qataris swoop in and buy stake in Greek goldmine


Click to follow
The Independent Online

A Qatari sovereign wealth fund has taken a near 10 per cent stake in a Greek gold-mining firm, in a move that confirms European politicians are increasingly keen to accept assistance from emerging economies in order to ease the eurozone's debt crisis.

The deal by Qatar Holdings to buy a 9.9 per cent equity stake in European Goldfields from the Greek construction firm, Ellaktor, was approved on Saturday by the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

"We have built a very strong bond of mutual respect, and we Greeks are especially pleased that this bond leads to investments in our country," Mr Papandreou said following the meeting.

Ahmad al-Sayad, the chief executive of Qatar Holdings, which is also the owner of Harrods, said: "Hopefully this will have a positive impact on the local [Greek] economy."

The Goldfields deal is expected to create between 1,500 and 2,000 jobs in the crisis-stricken Mediterranean country. The Qataris will also provide the gold miner with a $600m (£385m) loan facility and shareholders will be offered $150m of loan notes. If these loan notes are taken up and Qatar Holdings exercises other equity options, the Qatari stake in the miner would rise to 30 per cent.

Sky News quoted one person described as close to the European Goldfields transaction saying that, although the deal has been presented as the Qataris assisting Greece at a moment of economic need, "this isn't an act of charity".

After a five-year wait, European Goldfields was given approval by the Greek environment ministry to dig three mines in the north-east of the country in July. That licence is set to turn the firm into Europe's largest gold producer. In August, a Qatari fund agreed to provide funding for a merger of two of Greece's largest banks. The move will give the emirate a 17 per cent stake in the lender that will be created by the merger of Alpha Bank and Eurobank.