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Mon 31 May 2010 12:05 AM

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Qatar had talks with partner over stake in Citigroup

Arabian Gulf country seeking to diversify its economy from its oil and gas industry.

Qatar had talks with partner over stake in Citigroup
ACQUIRING STAKE: Qatar considered acquiring a stake in Citigroup and even held talks with a partner over buying shares in the US company. (Getty Images)

Qatar considered acquiring a stake in Citigroup Inc and held talks with a partner over buying shares in the US company, the country’s finance minister said. Speaking at the World Economic Forum Global Redesign Summit in Doha, Qatar on Sunday, Youssef Kamal, Finance and Economic minister, said: “It was only just exploring our interest, not more than that."

He declined to say whether Qatar was still interested in the stake and didn’t name the partner involved in the negotiations.

Qatar, holder of the world’s third largest natural-gas reserves, seeks to diversify its economy from oil and gas by international investments in other areas.

The Qatar Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, owns stakes in financial institutions including Credit Suisse Group and Barclays. The fund bought Harrods department store in London this month and a stake in Volkswagen last year.

The US Treasury Department said last week it had sold 1.5 billion of its 7.7 billion shares in New York based Citigroup. The sale left the Treasury with 6.2 billion shares, or a 21 percent stake, down from 27 percent.

The government authorized Morgan Stanley, which is handling the transactions, to sell another 1.5 billion shares.

The US welcomes direct foreign investment in the country’s companies, Washington’s ambassador to Qatar, Joseph Evan LeBaron, told reporters today when asked about a possible Qatari plan to buy into Citigroup.

LeBaron said that the US “encourages this kind of direct foreign investment,"adding that it would be up to the US government, including Congress, to decide on any such investment in Citigroup.

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