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Inside Qatar’s investment diaspora

Asset-hungry and cash rich, Qatar keeps grabbing the headlines. But there are questions over which branch of Qatar’s wealth actually owns its trophy assets, while it is becoming increasingly hard to fathom whether the authorities are coordinating these investments.

Clockwise from top left: Sainsbury’s, Airtel, Harrods and Paris Saint-Germain
Clockwise from top left: Sainsbury’s, Airtel, Harrods and Paris Saint-Germain

For a country that is relatively new to wealth, Qatar has a surprising diversity of state institutions entrusted with investing it all. The Qatar Investment Authority is not the only game in town, or not anymore: as Qatari investment has grown in quantum and sophistication, specialist businesses have evolved to focus on activities in particular sectors. But how do they fit together? And are they as streamlined and co-ordinated as the state would like to believe?

Very clearly, the most visible Qatari state entity is the QIA, its sovereign wealth fund, and two subsidiaries within it: Qatar Holdings, which does most of the overseas direct investment, and Qatari Diar, the property developer. This is the institution whose swashbuckling global deal-fighting style transcends the pages of the FT and the WSJ to reach the Daily Mail or USA Today; its targets are often so visible and iconic that people who have no interest at all in finance know that it owns Harrods in London, and J Sainsbury, and Paris Saint-Germain.

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