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Qatar: Dubai dropped for Doha

As gas exports from Qatar provide the country with a buffer from the Middle East’s financial crisis, investors are expected to favour Doha over troubled Dubai. Already, some regional and global banks are transferring staff from Dubai to Qatar’s capital.

One example of this is George Shehadeh, until recently head of principal investments at Dubai-based regional investment bank Shuaa Capital. Shehadeh is moving to Qatar to push the asset management arm of local Qatari investment company Amwal, in which Shuaa holds a 47% stake.

Shehadeh will succeed Amwal’s previous chief executive, Laurent Lavigne, who had more of an investment banking background. The new chief executive says that Qatar, which has ambitions to develop its financial services industry, could become the equivalent of Boston in the US – more of a centre for regional asset management than Dubai, which he says is like the region’s Wall Street, and more of a financing and investment banking centre.

"When foreigners start to move money back to Gulf markets they should find Qatar more attractive because of the economic fundamentals," says Shehadeh.

With liquefied natural gas prices and production set to double this year, Qatar continues to be among the world’s fastest-growing economies. As the rest of the Gulf region struggles to attain low-single-digit growth, the average estimate suggests Qatar will have low-double-digit growth in 2009.

One fund manager tells Euromoney that market capitalization held by foreigners in the Doha Securities Market has fallen from 20% to 9% in the past six months, compared with a fall from about 24% to about 5% in the UAE’s bourses.

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