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Dubai sheikh abruptly halts plans for Hong Kong family office

Dubai sheikh abruptly halts plans for Hong Kong family office
Sheikh Ali Al Maktoum at the One Earth Summit in Hong Kong on 26 March.

An investor who says he’s a relative of Dubai’s ruling family has abruptly delayed plans to open a family office in Hong Kong just days after making a pledge to expand in the Asian financial hub.

Sheikh Ali Al Maktoum, who says he’s related to Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is postponing the official opening of his family office scheduled for Thursday, according to a statement from the Hong Kong-Middle East Business Chamber.

Sheikh Ali needs to deal with “urgent matters in Dubai”, and the new date for the opening will be announced later, according to the statement sent through a WhatsApp message late on Wednesday.

The sudden reversal comes as Hong Kong steps up efforts to attract more family offices, which manage the lives and fortunes of the super rich. Sheikh Ali was among a group of high-profile guests to the city’s Financial Mega Event Week, and met with Hong Kong chief executive John Lee, according to the South China Morning Post.

Representatives for the chief executive’s office and the consulate of the United Arab Emirates didn’t immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

Sheikh Ali said in an interview with Bloomberg Television last week that he was planning a $500-million family office in the Asian financial hub, looking for investments in artificial intelligence, electric vehicles and fintech. He firmed up his decision to set up the family office after a visit to the city in December, he said in the interview.

The size and source of Sheikh Ali’s wealth, as well as the extent of his ties to Dubai’s ruling family, couldn’t immediately be determined.

On Wednesday, he joined a panel on philanthropy and wealth legacy at the Wealth for Good Summit, the city’s largest family office event hosted by the Hong Kong government. Annabel Spring, chief executive officer of HSBC Global Private Banking Asia Pacific, and Robert Rosen, a director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, were at the same panel. He also joined the One Earth Summit on Monday, alongside Hong Kong government officials and international company executives.

Hong Kong has been pushing to lure more wealthy people to set up family offices, with incentives including tax benefits. Lee in 2022 set a target to persuade more than 200 family offices with at least HK$240-million ($31- million) in assets to establish or expand their operations by the end of 2025. As part of the campaign, he led a week-long delegation to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi last year, and in November Hong Kong enlisted property tycoons to help lure firms.

Hong Kong is confident in reaching that target, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui told Bloomberg TV Tuesday. Hui also mentioned that Hong Kong has signed a deal with Dubai to coordinate family offices.


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