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.