Dubai: A new record was set for the number plate auctions in Dubai, with the Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) auction grossing Dh66.68 million on Saturday evening.
More than half of the total revenue generated was grossed by a combination of four number plates — D5, Q77, P27, O111 — together grossing Dh41.9 million.
Ranging from one to five digits, 80 distinguished numbers were on offer on Saturday. But all eyes were on D5, the first single digit number offered by RTA in an open auction, which was grabbed by Dubai-based Indian businessman Balwinder Sahani for a cool Dh33 million.
Amid loud cheers from more than 500 participants, the bidding for D5 saw a thrilling battle, culminating in a dashing sweep by Sahani, who in the end increased his bids by a million. This is the second time Sahani has ought a single digit number plate in two years. Last year he bought number O9 for Dh25 million at a charity auction organised by Jalila Foundation.
“This was the first time RTA offered a single digit number through a live auction, that is why it generated so much interest. Last year, O9 was auctioned by Jalila Foundation, who were the owners of that number,” said Ahmad Hashim Behroozian, CEO of RTA’s Licensing Agency, which organises the auction.
The live auction takes places every alternate month and is considered one of the biggest in the UAE.
“This is easily the biggest auction we have seen so far. This auction has generated a lot of interest not just among regular buyers and traders, but a lot of young people who are interested in pursuing this business come here to learn the trade. This auction helps them understand the market and the prices,” added Behroozian.
Apart from live auctions, RTA organises online plate auctions every alternate month.
RTA also sells distinguished number plates for fixed prices and, according to Behroozian, the auctions help set the price.
The second biggest grossing number plate on Saturday was Q77 which was bought by an Emirati bidder for Dh4.52 million, while P27 went for 2.14 million.
Similarly, O111 was the fourth highest grossing number, which was snapped for Dh1.98 million, while S786 was bought for Dh1.4 million.
Buyers have a variety of reasons to go for a number, ranging from religious value of a number to perception of it being lucky. In many cases it is an investment or sheer passion.
“A number like S786 sold for Dh1.4 million because there is a perception among many Muslims that it is a lucky number, some people believe number 9 is lucky, while there are numbers like 2020, which went for 456,000, has a temporary value because of Expo 2020,” said Ahmad, a regular participant at the auction.
Most of the participants were young Emiratis, but apparently they didn’t actually seem the real buyers.
“A lot of the participants are the representatives of a company or big businessmen who don’t like participate personally so they send their agents, who are constantly on touch with them through phone throughout the proceedings,” said Behroozian.
In June this year, Emirati businessman Arif Al Zarouni, bought Number 1 plate for Dh18 million in Sharjah.
In 2008, another Emirati businessman, Saeed Al Khoury, paid Dh52.2 million for a Number 1 licence plate in Abu Dhabi, which so far holds the record for the costliest number plate in the UAE.
RTA auctions are open for the public. Registration can be done online or at the venue by filling a form against a fee of Dh120. All participants are required to deposit a security cheque of Dh25,000.