Concrete proposals excite investors

A year after it won the bidding to host the tournament, there are only faint signs of a World Cup effect gripping Qatar.

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The cement mixers motoring up and down the highway to Lusail are the only signs of human activity on a stretch of drab Qatari desert north of Doha.

Lusail City is not built yet, let alone the 86,250-seater stadium where the 2022 Fifa World Cup will play out to its thrilling conclusion.

A few solitary towers have started to sprout from the ground on the patch of otherwise listless desert. But a year after Qatar won the bidding to host the football tournament, there are only faint signs of a World Cup effect gripping Qatar.

The emirate experienced a surge of sales of team jerseys and other football-related merchandise in the wake of Fifa's announcement that the Qatari bid had succeeded, says Pawan Dangol, the manager of the Adidas store at Doha's resplendent Villaggio mall.

"We're selling a lot more compared to before winning the bid," he says. "It's been mainly locals - expats are more concerned about fitness equipment here."

But it is a burst of construction and infrastructure development expected to total about US$100 billion (Dh367bn) during the 11 years between now and the tournament that most excites investors.

The effort is more of a marathon than a sprint, but young Gulf states have rarely experienced anything like the kind of decade-long investment needed for the tournament.

Lending to fund World Cup projects is yet to be factored into the outlook for many banks, with infrastructure projects the biggest concern for the next three years, says Elena Sanchez-Cabezudo, a financial analyst at EFG-Hermes.

"It's very difficult to make assumptions on a 10-year view," she says. "Whatever we have in our forecasts is for the short term: projects that were approved before the World Cup related to transportation, one of them being the Metro."

Planned sporting expenditure has yet to filter through to the country's private sector, with non-oil spending remaining "constrained", analysts from Standard Chartered wrote in a research note.

For the time being, a number of big developers and construction companies from the region and elsewhere are setting up offices in Doha, with companies, including Dubai's Arabtec, seeking to capitalise on an anticipated boom.

But the rush of infrastructure projects being awarded is paying off in droves for government-owned companies.

Qatar National Bank, the country's biggest lender and the bank most closely linked to the government, recorded a 30 per cent increase in earnings to 5.4 billion Qatari rials (Dh5.44bn) in the nine months since the start of the year.

Details remain scarce of the government's construction plans for 2022, says Ankur Khetawat, a property analyst at AlembicHC.

"We haven't heard anything in terms of new projects being awarded and it'll take time before things kick off," he says.

Projects to build the World Cup facilities are expected to be put to tender next year, he adds.