Qatar 2022, London bans Qatari advertising on public transport

Doha’s response could be to divert investments away from the City

No more ads promoting Qatar on buses, the tube or taxis in London. Transport for London, the London transport operator, has in fact decided to boycott Qatar as a tourist destination in response to legislation against the LGBT community and the conditions of immigrant workers in the Emirate. Qatar thus joins the other boycotted countries which include, among others, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan. The response from the Emirate was immediate, which according to the British press is reviewing its investments in London.

According to the ‘Financial Times’, Transport for London (TfL), which is chaired by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, this week informed Q22, the body that deals with the World Cup, and the Qatar Tourism Authority of his decision. According to a source close to the dossier, Qatar has decided to review its current and future investments in London “considering the opportunity to invest in other cities in the United Kingdom”. TFL’s decision, he added, “has been interpreted as a message from the mayor’s office that Qatari business is not welcome in London”.

The Gulf state, notes ‘The Guardian’, has become one of the largest investors in London through its sovereign wealth fund. Earlier this month, the Observer reported that the state of Qatar alone, not counting the personal holdings of individual royals, is the tenth-largest landowner in the UK, according to analysts at MSCI Real Assets.

The Emirate owns nearly 2.1 million square meters of property in Britain. Among the properties in the Qatar Investment Authority’s portfolio are the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge; Britain’s tallest building, the Shard, which was built with almost £2bn of investment from Qatar; Forbes House mansion; Chelsea Barracks; and the Savoy and Grosvenor House hotels. Qatar also co-owns Canary Wharf and has a 20% stake in Heathrow Airport.

In May, the Gulf state pledged to invest £10bn over five years in the UK, across technology, healthcare, infrastructure and clean energy sectors. A spokesman for Khan told the FT that the mayor has not been involved in day-to-day decisions regarding advertising on the city’s transport network. A TfL spokesperson said it had given “advertising partners and brands additional guidance” on acceptable advertising during the World Cup.