Vanity plate ‘1’ sold for $14.5 million in UAE

Without batting an eyelid, a UAE businessman dished out a record 14 million dollars for a car license plate at a charity auction in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.

“It is not huge compared to my family’s fortune,” Saeed Abdel Ghaffar Khouri said after bidding 52.2 million dirhams (14.2 million dollars) for an Abu Dhabi license plate bearing the single number “1”.

“The price is fair. After all, who among us does not want to be number one,” Khouri told AFP.

Emirates Auction, which organized the sale, said on its website that it had been expected to set a new world record for the most expensive car license plate in the world.

In May, another citizen of the oil-rich UAE spent 6.8 million dollars to buy 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 percent 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 (about 24 million dollars), 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 632,000 and 768,000 dollars 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 (27.4 million dollars) to get his hands on the number “1”. (http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/02/16/45734.html)