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Qatar regaining its appetite for deals

Qatar is regaining its appetite for deals. In the past two months alone, the world’s richest country per capita invested in Turkey’s biggest poultry producer, Russian oil giant Rosneft, and UK gas company National Grid.

The investments have been made through the Qatar Investment Authority, created in 2005 to handle the country’s windfall from liquefied natural gas sales, of which it is the world’s biggest exporter.

Since then, the country – with a population smaller than Houston – has amassed $335bn in assets around the globe, making its sovereign wealth fund the 14th largest in the world, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.

After a raft of high-profile deals that gave the fund, known as the QIA, and other Qatari investors, holdings in Hollywood, New York office space, London residential property, luxury Italian fashion and even a soccer team, transactions slowed in 2015 and 2016 as oil prices slumped.

With oil’s recovery since early last year, Qatar is back in the deal-making business.
Here are some of the country’s biggest investments globally:

Qatar

A visit to Doha starts at the $17bn Hamad International Airport. Qatar Airways, which is backed by the QIA, manages the airport, and that’s just the start of the fund’s extensive footprint in the country.

The QIA is the biggest investor in Qatar’s stock market, with majority stakes in Qatar National Bank, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s biggest lender, and telecom provider Ooredoo, which has operations in 12 countries and is chaired by Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud al-Thani, who is also the QIA’s chief executive officer.

Europe

Europe has long been a top destination for Qatari cash, with the country deploying billions in trophy investments such as German carmakers, Italian fashion designers and football clubs.

Qatar stepped in to invest billions in Barclays and Credit Suisse Group during the 2008 financial crisis. Qatar’s former Prime Minister HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani injected €1.75bn ($1.85bn) into Deutsche Bank in 2014 as the German lender sold shares to shore up capital.

The QIA is the biggest shareholder in German carmaker Volkswagen and played a pivotal role in Glencore’s $29bn takeover of Xstrata in 2012 after demanding the Swiss commodities trader boost its offer for Xstrata, in which it had built a stake of more than 10%.

In other high-profile deals, Qatar Sports Investments bought Paris Saint-Germain Football Club in 2011 and went on to win four French soccer league titles with star players including David Beckham.

Mayhoola for Investments, a company backed by Qatari investors, bought Italian luxury brand Valentino Fashion Group from private-equity firm Permira Advisers in 2012 for about €700mn, while former Prime Minister HE Sheikh Hamad bought a 10% stake in Spain’s El Corte Ingles, Western Europe’s largest department store owner in 2015.

UK

Qatar’s investments in the UK were valued at a minimum of $35bn in 2014, according to local media reports. In the swankiest parts of London, it’s possible to exclusively live, work, shop and stay in Qatari-owned properties. A Qatari-led group bought London’s Canary Wharf in 2015, expanding Qatar’s collection of London properties that includes stakes in London’s Savoy Hotel, the Shard skyscraper, Harrods department store, the Olympic Village and HSBC tower. Qatari Diar, the QIA’s real estate development unit, is converting the US embassy on London’s Grosvenor Square into a luxury hotel, and is building homes at the former Chelsea Barracks.

Financial and related services accounted for 11.8% of UK economic output, or £190bn ($278bn), in 2014, and quitting the EU could cost as many as 100,000 jobs in the sector by 2020, according to industry group TheCityUK.
Qatar’s UK investments aren’t just limited to real estate. With a 22% stake, the QIA is the largest shareholder in J Sainsbury. In 2012, the country’s sovereign fund bought a 20% stake in London Heathrow airport and Qatar Airways raised its stake in British Airways owner IAG to 20% last year.

Russia

Qatar’s $11bn Rosneft deal with Glencore in December builds on the country’s growing Russian portfolio. Qatar agreed to buy 24.9% of the St Petersburg airport in July and committed $2bn to the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund in 2014.

US

With much of its major investment confined so far to Europe, Qatar is now setting it sights on the US. The QIA opened an office in New York in 2015 and laid out plans to invest $35bn in the country by 2020 to diversify its oil holdings.

Qatar-based broadcaster BeIN Media Group last year acquired Miramax, the California-based film company that owns Oscar-winning movies including “Pulp Fiction.”

The QIA was the fourth-biggest investor in US office space in 2016, mostly in New York and Los Angeles, according to Real Capital Analytics. The fund acquired almost 10% of Empire State Building owner Empire State Realty Trust last year, and partnered with Brookfield Property Partners on an $8.6bn mixed-use project on New York’s far west side.

Asia

Switch on the lights in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, and there’s a good chance the power was generated from imported Qatari gas. While these Asian markets, including China, bought half of Qatar’s LNG exports in 2015, they have so far failed to attract much investment from the country. But this is starting to change.

The QIA is scouring the continent for possible investments. Fund executives said in 2014 they planned to place as much as $20bn in Asia over six years, and expand its offices in Beijing and New Delhi.

In June, the QIA agreed to buy Singapore’s Asia Square Tower 1 from BlackRock for $2.5bn, the biggest office transaction in Singapore. The fund acquired a stake in department-store operator Lifestyle International Holdings in 2014 and holds 20% of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s electric utility company. It is also planning to set up a $10bn investment venture with China’s Citic Group and is considering investing in a $100bn global technology fund formed by SoftBank Group Corp and Saudi Arabia, people familiar with the matter said in October.

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