Qatar: A portfolio that will only grow bigger

In just 40 years since Qatar gained independence, the state has seen its population soar from about 70,000 to almost 1.7m.

In just 40 years since Qatar gained independence, the population has soared from about 70,000 to almost 1.7 million.

If that figure, and a land mass of less than 11,500 square kilometres still represents the profile of a small nation, huge reserves of oil and liquefied natural gas have given Qatar disproportionate economic might.

The decision to plough part of the proceeds of the country's gas, oil, petrochemicals and related industries into major capital investments at home and abroad reflects a deliberate strategy to diversify and strengthen the economy.

Created in 2005, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) now has a presence in banking and finance, retail, car manufacturing, food, telecommunications, media, sport and other sectors globally.

The QIA's wholly owned Qatar Holding subsidiary lists stakes it has acquired in the Agricultural Bank of China, Barclays, Canary Wharf Group, Credit Suisse, Harrods Group, Hassad Food Company, J Sainsbury, the London Stock Exchange, Lagardère, Porsche, Qatar Exchange, Qatar Telecom, Qatar National Bank, Banco Santander and Volkswagen. These have been followed by investments in European Goldfields, the German construction group Hochtief and the leading Spanish power utility Iberdrola.

Not all the acquisitions directly involve Qatar Holding. Qatar Sports Investments, also a QIA subsidiary, was behind the takeover of the Paris Saint-Germain football club, while a member of the royal family bought the Spanish club Malaga.

Despite the nuances of ownership, all tend to mirror the Qatar establishment's desire for footholds in activities around the world. With 11 years to go to Qatar's hosting of the Fifa 2022 World Cup, there will be much new investment in the domestic infrastructure as the country seeks to make the tournament a success in the face of international doubts.

In the shorter term, attention will focus on the next moves of the QIA. With Qatar seeming intent on presenting itself as the most acquisitive of sovereign wealth funds, the geographical reach is bound to lengthen.

Published: November 7, 2011 04:00 AM


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