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Servicing a small, rich market

From quiet beginnings as one of the world's smallest states, Qatar has emerged as a regional player as a result of shrewd investment in natural gas and sound economic management. Although oil and gas revenues still account for about 60% of GDP, the non-oil sector grew by 10.8% last year, and the financial sector is performing particularly strongly.

According to the Qatar Central Bank, local commercial banks' total assets at the end of 2004 stood at QR92 billion (more than $26 billion). By March 2005 they had risen to just over QR103 billion. The country, however, has just 750,000 residents – of whom only 25% are citizens. GDP per capita earnings stood at $36,476 in 2004, and Qatar has a strong concentration of high-net-worth individuals.

Fourteen banks service this small but rich market – seven local and seven foreign. The clear leader is Qatar National Bank (QNB), with about 50% of total banking system assets. Established in 1964 as the country's first Qatari-owned commercial bank, it is today half state-owned and half privately owned. Next in line is Commercialbank, which was created in 1975 as Qatar's first wholly privately owned commercial bank. Also operating are Doha Bank, Qatar Islamic Bank and Qatar International Islamic Bank.

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