» 02/27/2008, 00.00
Doha: European banks are the new target for Arab investments
The rich Gulf country has declared itself in favour of investing in Europe. The figures add up to around 15 billion dollars.
Doha (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The prime minister of Qatar has made public his country's intentions to concentrate its investments in the Old Continent, leaving the United States high and dry.
An increasing number of Gulf countries are looking to Europe: the U.S. financial market is still seen as untrustworthy following the subprime mortgage crisis, while record oil prices have been filling the coffers of oil-producing countries. Currently, Qatar's sovereign wealth fund stands at about 60 billion dollars. Partly in order to diversify the country's economy, based on oil and natural gas, the sheikhs intend to invest in the world of finance, and expect to invest between 10 and 15 billion dollars of the next two years.
In an interview published by Middle East Online, sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thaniha says this is not the time to invest in the United States, where the economic crisis continues. "We are active in international markets and wherever we find a good opportunity ... in property, finance or industry", the sheikh added, carefully avoiding going into specifics.
According to leaked information reported by the Sunday Telegraph, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is eyeing the second-largest bank of Great Britain, the Royal Bank of Scotland. The Sunday Telegraph was the first newspaper to report in January on the interest of Qatar in Credit Suisse, in which it did in fact take a 2% stake. Shares in the Swiss bank - like those of the Royal Bank of Scotland - have been sharply lower recently.
Arab investments in European finance have puzzled EU leaders, who look suspiciously upon sovereign wealth funds, seen as dangerous geopolitical strategies whose sole purpose is profit. The European Commission reserves the right to legislate in the future if the necessary transparency is lacking in this area.
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