Qatar's streamlined QInvest to focus on three key areas

Chief exec outlines investment firm's new strategy as wealth management services are dropped
Qatar's streamlined QInvest to focus on three key areas
Currency from the Gulf state of Qatar, a Qatari Riyal sits with a U.S. dollar displayed for a photograph in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007. Gulf Arab states may fail to keep consumer prices in check by revaluing their currencies against the dollar, according to strategists at HSBC Holdings Plc and Citigroup Inc. Photographer: Charles Crowell/Bloomberg News
By Reuters
Wed 09 Oct 2013 03:05 PM

Qatar's QInvest will focus on three core business lines - investment banking, asset management and investing its own capital - while working more closely with top shareholder Qatar Islamic Bank, the firm's chief executive has said.

Tamim Al-Kawari took over last year after working with Goldman Sachs for five years, most recently as Goldman's local managing director and chief executive for Qatar.

"My experience at Goldman was invaluable and I have brought that with me to QInvest. We are sticking to our core competencies and continue to focus on providing innovative Islamic finance solutions," the Qatari national told Reuters at the firm's headquarters in Doha.

Al-Kawari said he had streamlined operations and reduced QInvest's number of business lines - areas such as wealth management and brokerage services have been discontinued.

QInvest, which has around $750 million in capital, will now focus on catering to companies that are seeking access to capital in the Gulf state and within the region.

It will also advise Qatari entities deploying capital abroad, and co-invest in long-term deals such as management buy-outs and buy-ins, and leveraged buy-outs. Qatar Islamic Bank owns a near 44 percent stake in QInvest.

With its vast natural gas reserves, Qatar has made a mark as one of the world's most sought-after investors, deploying billions of dollars through its sovereign wealth fund in companies such as Credit Suisse, Royal Dutch Shell and Glencore.

Investment banking business in the Gulf is gradually picking up after several years of sluggish activity that prompted several large global banks to cut their local operations, and also left some local investment banks struggling to stay afloat.

In April this year, al-Kawari brought in Michael Katounas to run QInvest's investment banking division; Katounas came from Credit Suisse, where he was a director at the bank's investment banking division in Dubai.

QInvest is keen to bridge the gap left by the large global banks in advising big family-owned and state institutions seeking to expand their investments, Katounas said.

In the past, the global banks often focused on the biggest deals, but Katounas added: "If you are waiting for the next $10-15 billion deal from the region, you will be waiting for a long time. On the mid-sized deal space, you have enough opportunities there to keep you busy."

QInvest was one of the advisors to the Turkish government on its $1.25 billion sukuk sale last week, along with HSBC Holdings and Standard Chartered.

Among other deals, the bank was an advisor to Kingdom Holding, the investment firm controlled by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, in its SR1.5bn ($400 million) acquisition of a stake in Chinese online retailer 360Buy.

QInvest will continue to rely on organic growth for the time being after a planned stake purchase in Egyptian investment bank EFG Hermes faltered earlier this year, al-Kawari said.

"The EFG transaction did not happen for a number of reasons but there is no urgent need for us to do acquisitions, and our strategy going forward is based on being a strong standalone business."

The bank may seek to raise some leverage in the future but currently has no debt, the executive added.

On the asset management side, QInvest is working with leading asset managers to develop and distribute global funds in a sharia-compliant manner, al-Kawari said.

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