The Qatar Investment Authority has been selected from a shortlist of interested parties drawn up by PricewaterhouseCoopers
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is on the verge of a deal to lease the Silverstone Formula One circuit, a British landmark.
The British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), which owns the circuit, has entered into exclusive talks with the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) to lease the 850-acre Silverstone site for 150 years.
The deal is expected to be worth up to £250mn (about QR1.48bn).
The QIA was selected from a shortlist of interested parties drawn up by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
An investor is needed to cover the costs of redeveloping Silverstone, which opened a state-of-the-art pit and paddock complex earlier this year. The QIA is conducting due diligence and a final decision is expected in the next six months.
A source close to the situation said: “To do all the development, they have had to borrow a massive amount of money and, long-term, the club can’t sustain that. So they want to take a lot of money for a very, very long lease from a substantial entity, perhaps a sovereign fund, which will continue development there.”
As well as sovereign wealth funds, PwC is believed to have focused its approaches on high-net-worth individuals and real estate companies which could help to develop the site.
It is believed that one of the key conditions the BRDC will impose on the investor is that the site must be maintained to a standard to make it suitable to retain the British Grand Prix after 2017, and that the primary purpose of the site must remain as a motor racing venue.
However, land adjacent to the circuit is available for construction work and earlier this month the BRDC submitted a planning application which includes technology and business parks, three hotels, an educational campus and a motorsport museum.
Such options make the circuit a more attractive investment as they offer the potential to make money other than through hosting F1. Despite a near-capacity crowd for last year’s race, the BRDC reported a £1.9mn pre-tax loss for the year ending December 2010, down from a £1.3mn pre-tax profit.
The BRDC is owned by 850 racing personalities, including Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Nigel Mansell. Members are set to get a windfall from the sale of the lease. In 2005, Northamptonshire-based Silverstone was valued at £61mn, but since then it has undergone considerable renovation.
The QIA and the BRDC could not be reached for comment.
Silverstone hosted the first Formula One championship race in 1950.
It has been a busy summer for the QIA. The fund’s real estate subsidiary, Qatari Diar, announced its involvement in a partnership that has paid £557mn (about QR3.30bn) to manage the London Olympic Village after the 2012 Games and turn it into housing.
Other high-profile investments made by the QIA over the past couple of years include the £1.5bn acquisition of London department store Harrods.
Qatar also has stakes in companies including retailer J Sainsbury , banking group Barclays and German automaker Porsche through the QIA.
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