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Number Plate Sells For 7 Million

Dubai number plate auctionThe super rich in the United Arab Emirates are bidding massive sums of money for out-of-the-ordinary car licence plates as the Gulf state basks in an oil-driven economic boom.

One particularly wealthy businessman on Saturday forked out a record (US) 14 million dollars (£7 Million) for a licence plate at a charity auction in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi.

"It is not huge compared to my family's fortune," Saeed Abdel Ghaffar Khouri told AFP after he bid 52.2 million dirhams ($A15.67 million) for an Abu Dhabi licence plate bearing the single number "1".

"The price is fair. After all, who among us does not want to be number one?" asked Khouri, whose fortune was made in real estate and stocks. Asked what he planned to do with the licence plate, the twenty-something said he would frame it and mount it on a wall rather than attach it to a car.

"I don't want to sell it at the moment. But I don't know what will happen in the future, because I'm sure its price will increase after a year or two," he added.

Oil-producing Gulf states such as the UAE have seen their economies boom in recent years on the back of record-high crude prices. Abu Dhabi sits on most of the UAE's oil and gas reserves - ranked fifth and fourth respectively in the world. Proven oil reserves on their own are expected to last for another 150 years.

Emirates Auction, which organised the sale, said on its website that it had expected that a new world record would be set for the most expensive licence plate in the world. In May another UAE citizen spent more than five million dollars on a licence plate bearing the number "5".

Funds from the auction will go to charities, including one to build a hospital for casualties from road accidents. According to official figures 312 people died in traffic accidents in 2006 in Dubai alone, up 32 per cent on the previous year and giving the emirate one of the world's highest road mortality rates of 21.9 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Buyers battled it out on Saturday for 90 low digit licence plates, spending a total of 89 million dirhams ($A26.48 million), said Abdullah al-Mannaei of Emirates Auction.

"Emiratis love cars and everything related to cars. They also love giving to charity," he said, adding that Abu Dhabi now had the seven most expensive licence plates in the world. The auction was held in the plush surroundings of the Emirates Palace Hotel on the Abu Dhabi waterfront.

The licence plates were displayed to eager bidders on a line of gleaming luxury cars. A Mercedes carried the number "1111" while a Ferrari sported "100". The plates fetched $US632,000 ($A697,000) and $US768,000 ($A847,400) respectively.

But the number "1" plate that made the record price was unveiled to prospective buyers attached to a Pagani Zonda - one of the world's fastest and most expensive cars. Khouri conceded to AFP that he would have been willing to pay up to 100 million dirhams ($A30.23 million) to get his hands on the number "1".

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