A wealthy bidder has splashed out a world-record 55 million dirhams ($15 million) for a rare car license plate in Dubai, smashing a bar set in the United Arab Emirates more than a decade ago.
Emirates Auction LLC sold plate number P 7—which, at first glance, looks like the number 7 alone, with the P off to the side—on Saturday during a charity auction, according to the company. Proceeds will go to Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s global food aid initiative, the 1 Billion Meals Endowment.
The UAE has made a habit of auctioning off vanity plates, used by the ultra-rich to show off their status and wealth, for charity. The latest auction broke a record set in 2008 by local businessman Saeed Abdul Ghaffar Khouri, who paid 52.2 million dirhams for a plate bearing the number 1 in Abu Dhabi.
The identity of this weekend’s auction winner was not disclosed.
Vanity plates have also fetched eye-watering prices outside the Middle East: Someone bought the single-letter “R” plate at auction in Hong Kong earlier this year for HK$25.5 million ($3.2 million).
For years, Dubai has been a safe space for the mega-wealthy to flash their wealth and live a tax-free lifestyle. While other parts of the world worry about an economic downturn, the emirate’s economy remains strong—with high oil prices benefitting its neighbors and most important customers. An influx of wealth has buoyed the real-estate market.
Even moderately paid expats splash out on cars they can newly afford thanks to lower sales tax rates than back home. But the recent Covid-era boom has driven up rents and squeezed middle-class residents.
Businessman Balvinder Singh Sahni, known as Abu Sabah, purchased plate D 5 in 2016 for 33 million dirhams. “Dubai is a city of gold,” he said in an interview Monday. “It’s a city of big people, secure people, nice people. So everybody wants to show their status.”
Sahni told of how when he first visited the luxury hotel Burj Al Arab in 2006, he was refused entry because his car license plate had too many numbers. He was told he needed either a two-digit number plate — or a reservation. “It was always my dream to have a single-digit number,” he said. “When I got the chance, and they told me this money all goes to charity, I went all in.” A self-described numbers guy, Sahni said the D 5 plate fit because his favorite number is nine, and if you add D (the fourth letter of the alphabet) with five, you get nine.
The Guinness World Records did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The plate sold over the weekend can be transferred to any car registered in the emirate, supercar or not.