London mayor Boris Johnson in Gulf investment push

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The London mayor Boris Johnson has begun a tour of the Gulf region in an attempt to drum up finance for projects in his home city.

Johnson is tapping the region for further investments in real estate, infrastructure projects and technology companies in the UK capital, following a series of high-profile finance deals from Arab states.

“London offers fantastic opportunities, because it is a city that is growing very fast. It is unlike any other city in Europe,” Johnson told Al Arabiya’s business reporter Fatima Daoui.

Johnson is touring the region in an effort to bolster ties between London and the Gulf.

“The idea is to strengthen those friendships, talk to people [and] build partnerships that already exist," he said.

Johnson said that the 2012 London Olympics led to a boom in the economy, as well as raising property values and demand.

“In the Olympic site, in Croydon, in Brent Cross, in Old Oak Common, in Battersea - across the city... there are fantastic opportunities to invest in stuff that will deliver over the long term,” he said.

Business with the UK

The presence of British companies in the UAE and the wider Gulf region is rapidly expanding, added Johnson.

“There are so many things that are going on in London that are influenced by decisions taken here [in the Gulf] and of course so many British businesses out here… Part of my job is to talk them up and fly the flag for our country," said the London mayor.

Johnson met with Masdar City, a “sustainable community" in Abu Dhabi, and praised an initiative in which it is a partner - the London Array, an offshore wind farm.

“I love Masdar, Masdar is stunning,” said Johnson.

The mayor added that he is fascinated with Masdar’s futuristic, electric, driverless pod-cars - although stopped short of saying it is something that would work in London.

“It’s the future,” he said. “If we did it in London it would not be very popular because the taxi drivers would be out of the job.”

Johnson added that the UK has many investments in the pipeline with Masdar and is “confident” there will be many opportunities to work together.

“In London, it’s as if we’re diversifying away from just financial services, which have been such a big part of the economy,” he said.

Additional stops on the tour

The London mayor will also be stopping in Qatar during his Gulf tour to encourage investments in the UK.

“What’s happening with Qatar now is extraordinary,” he said.

Qatar has a strong presence in London, with Western Europe’s tallest building, The Shard being 95 percent financed by the Gulf state. Qatar also owns the luxury department store Harrods.

The Mayor of London will return to the UK on Wednesday to attend the funeral of Baroness Thatcher, former Conservative leader and British Prime Minister, before heading back to the region to visit Qatar and Kuwait.

When asked about Thatcher’s economic policies, Johnson said she would have done things differently if operating in the 21st century.

“I think the terrible truth is that she wouldn’t have done the euro. And I think she would have tried to stop it,” Johnson said.

He said if Thatcher was alive and part of the government she would have “[tried] to say to the European governments, “‘you must be more competitive - and look at what’s happening in the Arab world.’”

Johnson said London had “a lot to learn” from the Gulf region.

“It makes you a bit humble. I think I’m the mayor of the greatest city on earth - I am by the way. But when you look at the speed of the development here, the ambition of what’s happening here, you are moved to humility.”

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