Published May 22, 2008

Real estate arm of Qatar SWF eyes Far East, Europe

(RAMALLAH) Qatar's US$40 billion property investment arm said on Tuesday that it had bought a French industrial firm for 1.5 billion euros (S$3.2 billion), planned to develop a US$2 billion project in Hong Kong and had set up a US$3 billion global fund.

Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co's chief executive officer Ghanim bin Saad al-Saad said that the firm would re-evaluate its assets in Europe given the strength of the euro, though it hoped that investments in the Far East and South America would 'balance this'.

The real estate arm of sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority expects 25 per cent annual growth in its business.

'In 2009, there are a lot of opportunities coming for Qatari Diar in the Far East, especially in Vietnam, Cambodia and China,' Mr Ghanim said, speaking ahead of a Palestinian investment conference in Ramallah.

'I believe 40 per cent of our growth in construction projects (will be) mainly in Africa, North Africa and Cuba,' he told Reuters in an interview. He added that the company's portfolio was now worth about US$40 billion.

Qatari Diar is part of the country's Qatar Global Fund - with other Qatari investors - of which 30 per cent will be invested in real estate in China, Vietnam and Cambodia, Mr Ghanim said.

'We have good relations with big investors in Hong Kong to invest US$2 billion in real estate development,' he said.

Despite currency fluctuations, he said that Qatar remained committed to its currency's peg to the US dollar.

'I think this is a matter of political connection between Qatar's riyal and the dollar,' he said. 'We commit to keeping our currency (pegged) to the dollar for the future.'

Qatari Diar and partner CPC Group bought London's Chelsea Barracks from Britain's Ministry of Defence for £pounds;959 million (S$2.6 billion) in January.

The firm's affiliate Barwa Real Estate Co for which Mr Ghanim is also the chairman, is part of a Qatari consortium building the £pounds;1.3 billion Shard of Glass development near London Bridge.

'We plan to invest more in London, because it is an international city . . . We would like to invest in real estate mainly in Europe,' Mr Ghanim said.

He also said that Qatari Diar had bought a French industrial firm for 1.5 billion euros but declined to name the firm as the deal was not public yet. -- Reuters