The Times of London and other publications have reported that Queen Elizabeth 2 will be among a boatload of assets put up for sale by Istithmar, Dubai World's investment arm, in the coming months to help pay down the Emirate's planet of debt. Also reportedly on the block is Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian circus group franchise.
Istithmar bought the QE2 from Cunard in 2007 for $100 million. At the time of purchase, there were grand plans to transform the iconic ship into a luxury floating hotel, boasting features like a West End-style theater and a glass penthouse complex where the iconic fire red funnel once stood. Hit hard by the worldwide recession, Dubai World has become saddled with debt, and QE2 has been languishing at Dubai's Port Rashid since arriving there in November 2008. Recent plans to dock the QE2 in South Africa as a floating hotel during this summer's FIFA World Cup were scuppered in January.
Istithmar has not confirmed today's reports from the British press. There was no immediate response to our request for comment. According to Arabian Business, a statement from Istithmar indicates only that there are a number of options for QE2, and that the company is "considering which option will best maximise [the] value of the vessel."
We'll keep you posted.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor