'Number 1' licence plate sells for £3.4m at auction in United Arab Emirates

'I attended the licence plate auction only to win Number 1,' he said. 'I have no plan to win other numbers.'

Adam Withnall@adamwithnall
Sunday 05 June 2016 13:20
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Arif Ahmad al-Zarouni is pictured with his prize
Arif Ahmad al-Zarouni is pictured with his prize

A businessman in the United Arab Emirates has paid almost £3.4 million for a licence plate bearing just the number “1”.

“My ambition is always to be number 1,” said Arif Ahmad al-Zarouni, the businessman who emerged triumphant from the auction hall in Sharjah, the third-largest emirate of the UAE.

Authorised by the police, sales of “distinguished” licence plates have become an increasingly lucrative business.

Other popular numbers sold on Saturday night included 12, 22, 50, 100, 333, 777, 1000, 2016, 2020 and 99999, according to Gulf News.

But it was the number 1 which attracted the most attention, and bidding quickly rose from its reserve of AED1 million to its final price of AED18 million (£3.37 million).

Mr Zarouni, who said the licence plate was for his personal use, said he was only interested in the final lot.

“I attended the licence plate auction only to win Number 1,” he said. “I have no plan to win other numbers.”

Each of the seven emirates of the UAE has its own licence plate system, meaning there are seven opportunities to be “Number 1” across the federation.

And while the price paid by Mr Zarouni may seem large, it isn’t the record spent on a licence plate in the UAE.

That dubious honour goes to the then-25-year-old businessman Saeed al-Khouri, who paid a staggering AED52.2 million (£9.8 million) for the number 1 plate in Abu Dhabi in 2008. Officials said the money from that auction would go towards founding a hospital for road traffic accident victims.

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