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Qatari royal on spending spree

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

A former crown prince and member of one of the Middle East's richest and most influential families is in WA eyeing big investments in agriculture.

Sheikh Mishal bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, whose family rules Qatar, has inspected farmland in the South West.

Members of his entourage told locals they were considering a multimillion-dollar investment in cattle production.

Sheikh Mishal is travelling with a team of bodyguards and a key adviser to his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former emir of the oil and gas-rich nation.

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They were shock buyers at a sale of stud cattle near Capel, where Sheikh Mishal paid top dollar for two Charolais bulls and two heifers.

The Qataris, who arrived at the Elders-run auction in three people movers, paid a sale-high $10,750 for one of the bulls and $3750 for the other.

Bardoo stud principal Barry Bell said the Qataris indicated they would be back next year for more of his bulls.

"It was all a bit of shock," Mr Bell said. "We had a little bit of warning because they came and looked at the cattle two days before the sale, but we were told it was highly unlikely the sheikh would turn up."

Mr Bell said the Qataris had discussed plans to air freight the bulls back to the Middle East.

They also looked at farms and made inquiries about potential feedlot sites.

Sheikh Mishal was made crown prince after his father rose to power in Qatar in 1995.

He is the oldest son of Sheikh Hamad, who shaped modern Qatar and was the architect of vast international investments worth more than $100 billion.

Sheikh Hamad also founded media group Al Jazeera and played a key role in Qatar winning the right to host soccer's World Cup in 2022. He handed over power to another son, Tamim, in 2013.

Sheikh Mishal and his entourage have been in WA for more than a week, using Perth as a base.

They created a stir last Sunday by booking out Maurizio Restaurant in Fitzgerald Street for dinner.

It is understood the visit is not connected with farming company Hassad, an arm of the Qatar Investment Authority operating in Australia.

Hassad has acquired 55,000ha of farmland across WA, South Australia, NSW, Victoria and Queensland since 2010. A $50 million spending spree late in 2011 netted Hassad farms at Bindi Bindi, Jerramungup and Esperance.

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