In the past year the QFC has licensed the following firms: Credit Suisse, Ansbacher, BDO JawadHabib Consulting, Arab Jordan Investment Bank, Oryx Bank Holding Corporation, Arab Law Bureau, United Gulf Financial Services, AXA Investment Managers and the Kuwait Financial Centre.
And in this October the QFC will move to its own headquarters building which can house up to 38 firms. Officials are confident that by the end of the first quarter of 2007 this building will be fully occupied.
‘The response from both international and regional firms has thus far exceeded our expectations and we would certainly expect to welcome many more in the months ahead,’ says chief executive officer and director general Stuart Pearce, who is working on the likely accommodation shortage.
‘We will certainly not turn away firms who are engaged in activities under QFC rules. It is not specifically required that they locate in the QFC building. They can be in any designated area of Doha.’
The attraction for these firms is the huge pipeline of project finance that is coming up in Qatar. The QFC has an impressive slide show for potential members which details the opportunities which range from project finance itself to insurance and reinsurance, wealth management, fund management and private equity.
‘Each project will have its own financing requirements and it is important for firms wishing to participate to have a presence in Qatar, namely through the QFC,’ adds Mr. Pearce.
There is also the ‘distinct possibility’ that the QFC could have its own capital markets ‘at some point in the future’, he says. ‘The concept behind the QFC is not only to raise the standard and the quantum of financial services available to the country but also to contribute to the development of financial services – which include capital markets – in the region.’
But how has the recent stock market crash in Doha impacted on the QFC. Will this put financial services companies off doing business in Doha?
‘No the recent downturn on the Doha Securities Market has had no negative impact on the QFC. The government investment strategy and the prospects this provides for international financial firms goes well beyond the movements of the DSM. There is no linkage between the DSM and QFC.’
The Qatar Government has a $130 billion investment plan covering a range of sectors up to 2012, with the lion’s share reserved for oil and gas projects, and by this date the emirate will be the world’s largest exporter of LNG.
Against this background the QFC was established in May 2005 as an onshore financial centre with its own world-class regulatory structure to provide a one-stop home for financial institutions to participate in this investment program which will leave Qatar with the highest per capita GDP in the world. So far the QFC looks a big success.
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