Qatar's $200bn investment strategy: Fast cars, football, finance and fashion

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Bankers and politicians touting their countries' wares have to work hard to get the attention of Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, such is the range of its interests, from banks to cars to soccer clubs, and its exacting requirement for returns.

With estimated assets of about $200 billion, and more than a dozen potential deals on its radar every week, the state-run firm has no time for less than compelling investment opportunities and hopes to make more than 17 percent on its book this year, according to one banker close to the fund.

In a series of interviews with top bankers and officials who deal with the fund, most of whom wished to remain anonymous due to their business relationships, Reuters probed the thinking behind the gas-rich Gulf state's investments and the future destination of its capital.

"There's clearly an open-door policy. Qatar has no mystery and no global mission to conquer the world. All it is is buying strategic shares in big companies at an advantage," says a senior banker at a global bank who has worked on several deals for the fund.

Qatar Holding, the investment arm of the wealth fund, has been actively deploying the nation's riches from plentiful natural gas in recent years in a string of high-profile assets ranging from French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain to stakes in German sports-car maker Porsche, British bank Barclays and Swiss lender Credit Suisse.

The world's top exporter of liquefied natural gas has a lot of spare cash to invest; recent figures showed a budget surplus of $26 billion in the second quarter of fiscal year 2012/13, or 54 percent of GDP for the period.

"The state exports 6 million barrels a day of oil equivalent (1m oil and 5m gas). At $100 a barrel, that would give revenues of $200 billion a year," the banker close to the fund said.

"After spending on government and budgets, the remaining $50 billion are channelled to QIA for investments. Qatar Investment Authority invests $40-$50 billion a year."

Executives at Qatar Holding, who said last year it had about $30 billion to spend, have said the fund follows no particular investment strategy and nothing is off limits.

"You name it - shares, bonds, real estate, private equity. We will look at every sector in every country around the world," Hussain al-Abdullah, Qatar Holding's vice-chairman, told a news conference in February.

"The Qataris have shown to be astute investors. Their focus is to identify good assets which they can acquire opportunistically regardless of geography or asset class," said Christos Papadopoulos, chief executive for the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan, at Standard Chartered.

"It's all about the price."

A growing focus for the fund is infrastructure investment.

Another banking source said the fund had hired Deven Karnik, the most senior managing director of Morgan Stanley's Asia infrastructure fund until he left in March, to head a new infrastructure division.

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