ExCel London has borrowed US$436 million from its Abu Dhabi owners to accommodate a festival associated with the 2012 Olympics.
ExCeL is a 100,000 sq metre exhibition and and conference venue adjacent to Canary Wharf and hosts major events such as World Travel Market, London International Boat Show and Gordon Ramsay presents A Taste of Christmas.
Speaking at the recent ESSA G50 Summit, ExCel’s CEO Kevin Murphy said the funds were borrowed from Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Co – which bought the centre for US$0.63 billion in 2008 – to finance the development of a hotel and new venue space.
Murphy drew attention to the venue’s drive into alternative event areas as a way of getting a guaranteed return on its space, telling attendees he had grown Excels take in the “exponentially bigger” events market four-fold in five years.
“We’ve now taken on £165 million (US$255 million), as well as another £55 million (US$85 million) to build our own hotel,” he said, confirming the venue has paid off an earlier £200 million (US$310 million) loan, used partly to fund the recently launched ICC. “We are sustaining these loans by diversifying our business. We are a commercial standalone business, and we need go out and chase it.
“Don’t be under any illusion, there’s no golden tap sitting in my office,” he said.
Among ExCel’s new projects is a series of major festivals, including an Olympic festival to accompany the 2012 event, as well as river and sea festivals.
Other key events ExCel has engaged to diversify its portfolio include religious groups, cultural sector events, national association meetings and corporate launches. “Toyota is one of our biggest spenders,” said Murphy.