Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) - Summary

May 12, 2013

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The government of Qatar established Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) in 2005. Before the founding of this sovereign wealth fund, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) had a small in-house staff to invest revenue from the budget surplus. QIA employees were located at the MoF until late 2007, when they formally relocated to dedicated office space in the Qtel Tower based in Qatar’s capital Doha.

In a 2007 interview, the then-prime minister, foreign minister and QIA CEO Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani said that inflation would undermine the returns of U.S Treasury bill holdings, so QIA needed to "find a way to break through the cycle of dollar and interest rates." This strategy explains why the fund immediately began making direct investments, focusing on leveraged buyouts in the U.K. It soon also bought trophy real estate in London and Paris. QIA is very image-conscious about its investments, mostly because Qatar uses them to define and project its brand abroad.

QIA predominantly invests in international markets (Europe, and U.S. and Asia) and domestically outside the nation’s energy sector. The fund has three departments: strategic and private equity, asset management and real estate. Each department sources funds from different subsidiaries. Qatar Holding is the wholly owned subsidiary for all direct investments (including real estate) and private equity. Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co. is a subsidiary specializing in real estate development. Although QIA’s assets under management are purportedly secret, executive board member Hussein al-Abdulla said in 2012 speech that they were more than $100 billion .

QIA chooses its partners from among financial institutions, large family offices and private equity firms. The fund’s deals are value-oriented, and it prefers to diversify away from natural resources (with the exception of alternative energy). It also observes a ban on investing in gambling and liquor-related enterprises.

The abdication of the emir in favor of his son, Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, in June 2013 has resulted in widespread changes at QIA. The new emir initially retained the ambassadorial role of the fund’s chairman, while Qatar Holdings’ CEO Ahmad al-Sayed, was promoted to the same position at QIA, replacing the old emir’s cousin Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani. In December 2014 a member of the Qatari royal family, Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud al-Thani replaced al-Sayed as CEO and he was joined by Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad al-Thani, as a chairman and Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani as new vice chairman.

QIA is a member of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds, but the board has declared several times that it is wary of adhering to some of the forum’s guidelines because it sees them as political interference. To deter domestic political pressure to distribute assets and foreign requests for aid, QIA declines to disclose any specific information about its activities.

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