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Qatar’s sovereign funds: A guide for the perplexed

Qatar

The best way to think about Qatar's investment activity is as three separate government-backed institutions with separate remits: the QIA, Qatar Petroleum, and the Qatar Foundation.

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October 2, 2012 4:14 by



By Una Galani

Cash-rich and outward looking Qatar is a gold mine for advisers. Yet for those hoping to land work on any of the multi-billion dollar transactions led by the Gulf state, it’s no longer enough just to put in a call to its highest-profile sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority. Today,Qatar’s financial activities are spread across different but related entities, with blurred dividing lines.

Last week’s confusion over which Qatari entity is studying an investment in the AUX gold firm of Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista illustrates the problem. Qatar Holding, a QIA subsidiary that has taken an interest in gold mining, put out a rare and strongly worded denial of any involvement. The refutation was only the third it has issued, after rubbishing speculation of talks to purchase soccer team Manchester United and Britain’s Silverstone Grand Prix circuit. But days later, Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, the chief executive of the QIA, confirmed the Gulf state is indeed studying an investment.

That might not be inconsistent: the chosen vehicle is thought to be Qatar Mining, a little-known highly opaque state-owned entity established in 2010 to invest in mining and metals.

The best way to think about Qatar’s investment activity is as three separate government-backed institutions with separate remits: the QIA, Qatar Petroleum, and the Qatar Foundation.

The QIA is what most people think of when Qatar pops up on a deal. It has led the bulk of Qatar’s foreign acquisitions through its various subsidiaries – mainly Qatar Holding. Stakes in Barclays, Credit Suisse, Agricultural Bank of China, and German carmakers Volkswagen and Porsche, plus full ownership of luxury retailer Harrods, have all been pursued by Qatar Holding. Other QIA subsidiaries include Qatari Diar, which takes charge of the QIA’s real estate development projects around the world, and Hassad Food, which has a mission to establish a global presence as a food producer and secure food supply. Qatar Holding also owns stakes inQatar National Bank and Qatar Telecom, which are themselves internationally acquisitive.

The QIA board includes the prime minister, the governor of the central bank, and the finance minister. However, the man credited for forging the fund’s aggressive overseas strategy is Ahmad Mohamed Al-Sayed, the chief executive of Qatar Holding. QIA board member Hussain al-Abdulla is another key figure.

The QIA’s sprawling portfolio and broad mandate to diversify the economy make it a natural target for companies needing finance, but direct investments that don’t require day-to-day management is the fund’s speciality.

As for Qatar Petroleum, its function is to maximise the value of the country’s hydrocarbon reserves and make strategic investments in energy and petrochemical projects. The fund’s foreign ambitions are pursued mainly through Qatar Petroleum International.

Another subsidiary, cash-rich Industries Qatar, is expected to take on a bigger role. This is used as a vehicle for wealth redistribution to Qatari citizens, with a roughly 20 percent stake now held by Qatar’s General Retirement and Social Insurance Authority (there’s a 30 percent free float).



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