Five Qatari investment institutions that aren’t the QIA

By:
Chris Wright
Published on:

A look at Qatar Foundation Endowment, QPI, Qatar Sports Investment, Qatar Luxury Group and Hassad Food.

Further reading
Qatar
• Inside Qatar's investment diaspora

QATAR FOUNDATION ENDOWMENT: The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development supposedly dates from an idea the Emir had while setting in a tent at Umm Orabya farm in 1995 with his wife, Sheikha Mozah. It was founded later that year and she has been instrumental in it from the start. It has a mandate to nurture Qatar’s future leaders, and in practice, this is chiefly an educational role, closely aligned to the broader objectives of Qatar’s National Vision 2030, which set a clear ambition to make Qatar a knowledge-based economy after its publication in July 2008.

The foundation itself is seen as the Sheikha’s chief passion. "She’s certainly been an inspirational leader to young Qatari females," says Ringrow. "In other Gulf states, the spouse of the ruler is rarely visible." Its biggest initiatives to date have involved the establishment of branch campuses of eight international universities outside Doha, including Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern University, University College London and Weill Cornell Medical College.

In 2010 an endowment fund was launched, under the leadership of Rashid Al-Naimi, who came up through human resources functions at RasGas. Since then some big names have joined, notably Carl Bang from State Street as CIO and Stefan Cowell, formerly of the Abu Dhabi Retirements and Benefit Fund, as head of asset management, but Bang at least has since left, joining Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial in May this year.

Investment to fund the foundation was initially conducted through the QIA before the endowment’s formation. Its first publicly-noticed deal was when it spent US$1.26 billion in an equity injection into Bharti Airtel in May 2013, giving it a 5% stake in the company. Qatar Foundation also holds the state’s stake in the Qatar arm of Vodafone, so telecoms is clearly a sector priority. There were expectations of the endowment following a Yale or Harvard diversified model, but professionals familiar with the endowment say activity has slowed.

 

QPI: Fully owned by Qatar Petroleum, QPI was launched as the company’s foreign investment arm in 2006 and has since invested in the US, Europe, Asia and Africa. It operates through joint ventures around the world, and through the acquisition and operation of energy assets worldwide. Unlike some investment vehicles, it then seeks to develop, operate and integrate them into a unified portfolio. So, for example, on the upstream side it owns 40% of a venture with Centrica to develop natural gas and crude oil assets across Canada, and partners with Total in Congo, while downstream it is also invested in a range of petrochemical and refinery ventures in Singapore, Egypt, Vietnam, China and Algeria.

Some compare it to Abu Dhabi’s IPIC, though others consider it more focused. "IPIC is happy to have assets, whereas QPI wants to be an operating entity – that’s the difference," says one banker. "IPIC went and bought Man City," says another. [Actually it was Sheikh Mansour, who is chairman of IPIC.] "These guys haven’t done that yet."

 

Qatar Sports Investment: Founded in 2005, this is meant to be a specialist in sports and leisure industries, with revenues from its investments to be reinvested into Qatar’s sport and entertainment sector. Again, it can act in partnership or as an independent buyer.

Its three purest sport assets are Paris Saint-Germain, the French football club it became 70% majority owner of in 2011, buying the remainder in 2012; FC Barcelona, with which QSI signed a five year partnership in 2010 which included the subsequent sponsoring of the Barcelona shirt by Qatar Foundation; and Burrda Sport, which supplies sports apparel and equipment to various teams in Europe and the Middle East. The rest of the portfolio has a more peripheral relationship with sport, and a very clear real estate feel: a golf resort and a marina club in Doha, for example, and the huge Al Khaleej residential and commercial land development, whose sporting functions appear to be limited to a gym for residents. Unlike the opulent surroundings of, say, Qatar Foundation in the sleek and stirring 52-storey Tornado Tower, QSI occupies part of the fourth floor of a travel agency building.

 

Qatar Luxury Group: Style is the name of the game at this specialist entity designed to build and foster luxury fashion brands, staffed by former Louis Vuitton executives; some bankers who have visited to pitch report being instructed to do so only in French. Brands include QELA, Le Tanneur and a series of top restaurants such as Quisine by Guy Savoy.

Qatar Luxury Group falls within Qatar Foundation, and is considered closely linked to Sheikha Moza, wife of the former Emir, mother of the new one.

 

Hassad Food: This one is actually part of the overall QIA apparatus – it’s a wholly owned subsidiary underneath Qatar Holding – but is worth looking at as an illustration of Qatar’s priorities, combining investment with the national interest.

Hassad Food Company was founded in 2008 with a dual mandate: to run a profitable and sustainable investment business, and to ensure Qatar’s food security. Its stated investment process involves a 50-100 year timeframe in agribusiness and food production. It has a subsidiary in Australia, focusing on livestock and grains, and another in Sudan, alongside businesses within Qatar such as Roza Hassad, a flower production facility, and NAFCO, which processes, packs and markets foods.

Its activity has caught the attention of groups such as farmlandgrab.org, which discloses and fights "the global rush for farmland". The Australian calculated in June that Qatar, generally through Hassad, had accumulated 287,000 hectares of prime Australian wheat and sheep farmland.