Britain is home to £38.5 billion worth of Qatari investments, the Lord Mayor of the City of London has revealed during a visit to the Gulf State. Charles Bowman also acts as a global ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services industry. He explained that the figure of £35 billion has been boosted by a recent injection of £3.5 billion, representing 70 per cent of new investment in Britain, which is estimated at £5 billion, according to the Qatari newspaper Al-Sharq.
“There are fruitful discussions with the Qataris to take the necessary measures and steps to make the Qatari business environment more attractive, especially as there are laws and institutions that serve these objectives,” Bowman explained. “Some ideas, such as organising the forthcoming Qatar Day in London, have already been studied, and presents a chance to highlight the opportunities, activities and business climate in Britain’s capital.
The Lord Mayor said that his visit to Qatar fell within the framework of strengthening relations between the two countries as well as the financial sector in the UK. “I met with Shaikh Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Deputy Emir of the State of Qatar; Ali Sharif Al-Emadi, Minister of Finance; and leaders of the Qatar Financial Centre, along with several state officials and the managers of 10 Qatari banks. The dialogue between us was constructive, open and positive. During the visit, we have discussed many issues and means of enhancing mutual cooperation in various fields.”
According to Bowman, “Qatar National Vision 2030 is very courageous and ambitious, and London has the willingness to support Qatar in this direction, especially as it has the capital and the desire to concretise such a vision.” The UK, he pointed out, has a lot of knowledge and experience that can help Qatar diversify its economy in several areas, and the connection between the two countries is strong.
“We are seeking to expand our five-point cooperation plan. First, we will enhance the reinsurance sector. Second, we will deepen cooperation by achieving Qatar’s national goals embodied in Qatar National Vision 2030, as well as in the 2022 World Cup projects, in addition to cooperating with Qatar Financial Centre and other parties. Third, we are looking forward to developing mutual trade, investment and economic cooperation. Fourth, we will work together in the banking field, and boost innovation in the financial sector. Finally, we will work on maximising trust between the financial sector and its practitioners.”
London, said the Lord Mayor, has advantages for Qatari investors, notably freedom of trade, investment and the attractive investment climate, in addition to Britain being an important economic, educational and cultural centre. The UK also has tax incentives and legislation that encourage foreign investment.
Britain is Qatar’s largest investment destination. As a recent BBC report said, “It’s hard to walk around London and admire its sights without liking something owned by Qatar.” Such sights include the Shard, the tallest skyscraper in Europe, which is 95 per cent owned by the Qataris. Other investments include Harrods department store, the Olympic Village and stakes in hotels such as the Savoy, Inter-Continental and Claridge’s.
Qatar intends to diversify its investments across different sectors rather than just real estate. Qatar’s Prime Minister, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al-Thani announced in March last year that his country will invest £5 billion ($ 6.5 billion) in Britain over the next three to five years, focusing on energy, infrastructure and services as well as property.
Qatar already has strategic stakes in a number of major British companies and assets, such as a 20 per cent stake in Heathrow Airport, 22 per cent of Sainsbury’s and a 20 per cent stake in International Consolidated Airlines Group, IAG, which owns British Airways. Furthermore, Qatar owns more than 6 per cent of Barclays, has a share in Royal Dutch Shell, and holds 9 per cent of Glencore, the UK-based mining and commodity trading company.
London and Doha are likewise linked by important commercial ties. Qatar provides London with its total requirements of liquefied natural gas, for example.
According to data from the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, trade between Qatar and the United Kingdom last year was valued at about $3 billion, and it is growing. More than 620 British-Qatari companies are operating in the Qatar market with a total capital of around $4 billion.