Photo: (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
When it was announced that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup, many in the international community were taken aback. To them, Qatar and its capital Doha still represented an economically backward desert area incapable of keeping up with booming growth centres like Rio de Janeiro or Shanghai. Doha, it turns out, is on par with these metropolises, even surpassing them in certain ranks. Today, Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world, according to the CIA.
Its preeminent economic status is largely due to the fact that it also has the third largest gas reserves and is the leading liquid natural gas exporter in the world, according to the New York Review of Books. The result is that today, one-tenth of the Qatari populace (29,000 people) are millionaires.
Deft Qatari investments must not be understated, however. The country’s sovereign wealth fund — the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) — is the 12th largest in the world with $85 billion in assets. Through holding and property subsidiaries, Qatar has gobbled up billions of dollars in real estate, retail, sporting, financial, and cultural investments. This year, according to Bloomberg, the QIA intends to spend $30 billion.
Qatar's ultra-powerful emir, Khalifa al Thani, was worth $2 billion as of 2008. In 1996, he helped found Arab media empire Al Jazeera with a $140 million grant.
Today the station is owned by the Qatar Media Corporation -- who have reportedly poured more than $1 billion into the channel, which boasts over 200 million viewers worldwide.
The QIA is largest shareholder in Barclays. In 2009, Qatar Holding--a subsidiary of the QIA--sold 35 million shares of the British bank, reducing its share to around 5.8 per cent from a little over 6 per cent.
Recently, Qatar signed a joint-venture with Barclays to investment $250 million into the bank's natural resource fund. The partnership is very much still alive.
The QIA currently has a 6.17 per cent stake in Credit Suisse. This year, its real estate arm--Qatari Diar --purchased the Swiss bank's 546,000 square foot London headquarters at Canary Wharf for $517 million with a lease back agreement in place.
In 2010, Qatar Holding--on behalf of the QIA's chairman/Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani--bought upscale English retailer Harrods for $2.35 billion.
Jaber al Thani has big plans for brand. Next year he plans to break ground on a Harrods hotel in Kuala Lampur, with more to come in New York City and Paris.
Under Jaber al Thani, the QIA has been buying up retail spaces across the world. It recently bought a prime complex in Paris's ritzy Champs-Elysées boulevard.
Qatar's hotel arm -- Katara Hospitality -- is set to buy four luxury hotels in France, including the Martinez in Cannes and the Concorde Lafayette in Paris.
It currently is developing the 200-room Peninsula Hotel in Paris, which in the 1970s was the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs when Henry Kissinger concluded the Vietnam War.
Katara Hospitality is currently redeveloping the Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan and the Hotel Schweizerhof in Zurich.
Qatari real estate interests have been swarming London this past decade. In recent years, the country's investments in British infrastructure, real estate, and financial institutes have topped $16 billion.
Qatari Prime Minister Jaber al Thani has helped develop London's opulent One Hyde Park residences, where he owns a $63 million penthouse suite.
More recently, Qatari Diar bought the athletes village in London's Olympic Park for $906 million along with a developer.
The Qatar Investment Authority also headed the redevelopment of the Shard, Europe's tallest building
The QIA head-manned the redevelopment of the Shard Skyscraper, a 95-story Renzo Piano-designed glass tower, with views across London's financial district and the landmark St Paul's Cathedral.
In 2009 they acquired the property of the former US embassy in Grosvenor Square for $664 million. They've since turned it into Grosvenor Waterside: a massive residential high rise.
The British Ministry of Defence sold the barracks-turned-concrete block tower to Qatar Diar for redevelopment in 2009 for nearly $1.5 billion. Though they housed British troops until 2008, the barracks sit smack dab in the middle of Britain's most expensive residential neighbourhood.
After viewing an architectural firm's plans, however, Prince Charles sent a hand-written note to the Qatari royal family pleading with them to abandon their efforts to build a modernist, 500-unit residence.
The Qatari's withdrew their application as a result of the Prince's petition, but they were then sued by their co-developer--Christian Candy--for breach of contract.
With a redesigned model and a court settlement, the project is finally rolling forward.
Source: The Guardian
Qatar's real estate arm owns Shell's central offices in London and has made other oil and energy investments
In 2011, Qatari Diar bought Shell Centre from the Shell oil company for $466 million. As part of the agreement, Shell will keep its famous 27-story tower while ceding the rest of the land to Qatar for redevelopment. The QIA plans to build shops, offices, and residences there.
The QIA has recently purchased a significant stake in Shell as well, reportedly somewhere in the 3 to 5 per cent range. If the purchase were 5 per cent, the QIA would become Shell's largest shareholder.
The Qataris recently purchased a 3 per cent stake in major French energy firm, Total, while also negotiating to buy a holding in mega Italian oil company, ENI.
Qatar's sovereign wealth fund and its royal family are reportedly in talks to buy fashion house Valentino for $854 million. The resurgent line experienced a 300 per cent increase in earnings during 2011.
Valentino is also said to be the dress designer of choice for the Emir's wife, Sheikha Mozah. Along with Valentino, Qatar would be acquiring M Missoni -- a smaller line of its larger Missoni brand.
Qatari money has been steadily flowing into European luxury brands. In 2012, they own nearly 1 per cent of luxury super-line Louis Vuitton, Moet, and Hennessy (LVMH), the stake of which was worth nearly $861 million in March.
In 2009, the QIA advanced into the field of luxury automakers. That year it bought 10 per cent of Porsche as well as options Porsche held on 20 per cent of Volkswagen shares.
The Qatari kingdom has poured millions into art during the past decade. In 2008, it commissioned famed architect I.M. Pei to design its Islamic Museum of Art overlooking the Doha waterfront. In 2013, it will open the Jean Nouvel-designed National Museum of Qatar.
For both museums, the small Arab kingdom has amassed a collection of world-class art that rivals any museum in the West. In 2007, it bought Rothko's 'Rockefeller' for $73 million and Koons and Warhol works for a staggering $400 million. From Madoff victim J. Ezra Merkin, it purchased 11 Rothko's for $310 million.
For years the QIA has made inquiries into buying a sports clubs, particularly a premiere European soccer club.
While their bids to take over Manchester United and Everton F.C. have failed, the QIA recently purchased the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team and have invested heavily in its star power. They made a failed bid to lure Brazilian Thiago Silva away from AC Milan for $58 million, but succeeded in signing Argentine Javier Pastore for $54 million.
Currently, the Qatar Foundation --run by the Emir's wife Sheika Mozah -- has a $232 million contract with FC Barcelona to place the foundation's logo on front of the Spanish soccer team's jersey.
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