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02 December 2023

A whopping Dh52.2m

By Nissar Hoath

It is not a diamond, nor a piece of antique Moghul era jewel, yet it is one of the world’s most expensive items and costs Dh52.2 million – it is the number one of Abu Dhabi’s vehicle registration plate.

The number plate yesterday came under the hammer at the sixth Vehicles Number Plate Auction of Abu Dhabi Licensing and Vehicle Registration Department held to raise funds for the rehabilitation of people with special needs and traffic accident victims. The auction raised a total of Dh89m from 90 numbers, bringing the total amount to almost Dh300m in all six auctions held since May last year.

This time, Talal Ali Mohammed Khoury, Chairman of Al Awael Holdings of Abu Dhabi, who has been acquiring all the best numbers previously, failed to make it this time. He had paid Dh25.2m for number five and Dh11m for number seven in previous auctions, breaking world records.

However, it was another member of the Khoury family of Abu Dhabi this time. The number one was bought by Saeed Abdul Ghaffar Khoury (pictured above, cente), a young businessman from Abu Dhabi with interests in share markets and real estate. He made the bid of Dh52.2m after a stiff competition amid charged atmosphere in a jam-packed hall at the Emirates Palace hotel in the capital. This is the third single-digit number that went on sale. The other two were five and seven.

As the bidding for digit one (in the series of Code 5 of Abu Dhabi’s vehicle registration system began), the first offer from Saeed was Dh25m. Holding his auctioneering identity card number 111, he continued raising the bid offer by Dh1m, competing with another participant holding card number 11 – it was an interesting and electrical competition between “11” and “111” for grabbing ‘1’. More than 25 offers were made between the two.

Surrounded by a team of photographers, TV crews and reporters, both fought for the bid for almost 20 minutes. Finally the young Khoury made the highest offer and his competitor surrendered. “I don’t know what kind of car will have this number. We have not decided yet,” he said after receiving the number. The number was earlier unveiled through an impressive laser display. It was unveiled on a Dh6m Swiss Pagani Zonda car amid loud music and cheers from the crowd. Khoury said it was the second expensive number he has bought from the auction organised by Emirates Auction and Abu Dhabi Police. He owns number 11, which he bought from a previous auction. “These are my two best and favourite numbers. I’m happy to have these two numbers as I love number one. It is also a good investment with good returns. I will keep it. I won’t sell it even for Dh100m. After two years, it’s value will double,” he said.

Khoury said it was not big money for such a “great number”. He said since the money was going towards a good cause, it was worth spending on this number.

The second most expensive number of the day was 100, which was sold for Dh2.8m. Though its bidding was opened with Dh190,000, the first bid was Dh1m. The auction also saw the youngest bidder, Hazza Saif Al Hammadi, a 10-year-old, who bought number 51 for Dh2.1m. He said he bought the number on his father’s behalf.