Eurozone crisis “a once in a lifetime opportunity” - Qatar banker

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"The eurozone crisis is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

The crisis in the eurozone is “a once in a lifetime opportunity” for Gulf investors to snap up trophy assets for knockdown prices, a leading Qatari banker told Arabian Business.

As the euro continued to dip and European stocks fell on Tuesday as a result of concerns of a slowdown in China’s economy, a leading Qatari bank official said the challenging economic situation in Europe offered great opportunities for his customers.

“I think [the eurozone crisis] is a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy high quality assets at reasonable prices,” George Nasra, managing director of International Bank of Qatar (IBQ), told Arabian Business in an interview in Doha.

“In view of the significant excess capital in Qatar, we expect some of this will go overseas and that is what has been happening… It is a logical step in diversifying their resources and revenue for the future. I think they are buying at the right time and price,” added Nasra, who was ranked number 32 in the Arabian Business Qatar Power List 2012.

Qatar was recently named the world’s richest country per capita and is eager to diversity its massive oil and gas reserves into lucrative markets such as Europe.

Some of the diverse portfolio of trophy assets it has snapped up include France’s Paris Saint-Germain Football Club, Harrods’s department store in London and stakes in German carmaker Porsche, Swiss lender Credit Suisse and real estate in Cyprus.

One of the hardest hit eurozone countries was Greece, but Nasra said his clients have veered away from investments in the Mediterranean nation: “They looked at Greece and were in negotiations but nothing important materialised. Favourites continue to be the UK, France and Switzerland.”

His sentiments echo those late last year by French investment bank Societe Generale, which said there were a lot of opportunities for Gulf investors to benefit from the ongoing crisis in Europe.

“For those who are liquid, there are opportunities… One way to benefit from Europe is that valuations of a lot of corporations are very low. Whether they are much too low compared to their net worth? We believe so and, as such, there are some opportunities,” Daniel Truchi, global CEO of Societe Generale Private Banking said while on a visit to Dubai to meet regional clients in October.

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