Saudi eyes on Mayfair

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A chunk of prime Mayfair and Knightsbridge property is believed to be next on the shopping list of Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, the acquisitive Saudi who has recently invested in Apple and TWA and acquired the Princess Hotels group from Lonrho, writes Richard Halstead.

The prince is thought to have tabled a bid of around pounds 100m for several properties in the BP Pension Fund portfolio that were put up for sale last month.

The properties include part of Sloane Street's retail area and several office buildings in Charles Street and Queen Street in Mayfair, part of the BP pension fund portfolio since 1967. They include several buildings abutting the Saudi embassy.

Prince al-Waleed, a nephew of King Fahd, has been dubbed the "Warren Buffet of the Gulf" for his aggressive strategy. In 1994, he took 20 per cent of troubled leisure group EuroDisney, and has helped to steer it through a period of reconstruction.

More recently he has taken a 5 per cent stake in TWA, and two weeks ago he splashed out another $110m (pounds 68m) to acquire 5 per cent of Apple Computer, the embattled US computer company being stalked by Oracle.

If the BP property deal goes ahead it will be his first big London property purchase.

"Properties like that do not come along very often, and there has been a lot of interest. Whoever is buying it is paying full price," said one property source. DTZ, the agent for BP, confirmed that the property was under offer to one party but declined to comment on that party's identity. Press reports have hinted that a quoted UK property company is involved.

"The bidding was extremely competitive, and the guide price has been easily exceeded," said a DTZ spokesman.