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UK’s Birmingham eyes asset sales, Middle East cash

Birmingham City Council says approached by sovereign funds.

September 21, 2010 1:25 by

Birmingham council leaders are in talks with Middle East sovereign funds, hoping to plug a budget hole selling some of the billions of pounds of trophy assets owned by Britain’s second city.

The NEC — the biggest exhibition centre in Britain — prime real estate and a stake in Birmingham Airport could all be up for grabs, councillors said, as they look to fund big capital projects at a time when the national government is demanding deep spending cuts.

Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council which represents over 1 million people and describes itself as Europe’s biggest local authority, said he had been approached by sovereign wealth funds and was talking with the Abu Dhabi government as he tries to forge closer ties to the Middle East

“We would allow them to be in partnership with our assets including the National Indoor Arena (NIA), the Symphony Hall, the ICC (International Convention Centre) and the National Exhibition Centre (NEC),” Whitby, a member of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party, told Reuters. (Additional reporting by Golnar Motevalli, Paul Hoskins, Sinead Cruise, Daryl Loos; editing by Paul Hoskins)

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