Exclusive: Qatar's secretive sovereign fund to restructure

Mon Jun 15, 2015 11:33am EDT
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By David French

DUBAI (Reuters) - Qatar Investment Authority, one of the world's most aggressive sovereign wealth funds, will set asset allocation targets for the first time and restructure internal decision-making, sources say, in response to a drop in oil prices that has crimped available funds as competition for assets grows.

In a cryptic reference on QIA's website, a tab saying 'QIA Review - Coming Soon' leads to a page which does not yet exist. The sources, who all either work in Qatar or for foreign institutions which work with the QIA, said the review process was currently ongoing.

They spoke on condition of anonymity as they did not want to jeopardize working links with the secretive fund.

A spokesman for the QIA, which is estimated by industry tracker the Sovereign Wealth Center to have $304 billion of assets, declined to comment.

QIA, set up in 2005 by the Supreme Council of Economic Affairs, a body chaired by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, was one of few sources of capital available to stressed sellers during the global financial crisis and thus snapped up, at rock bottom prices, many indiscriminate assets like ownership of the Shard skyscraper in London and Harrods department store, and stakes in Credit Suisse CSGN.VX and Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote).

Now, however, as the global economy recovers, QIA faces competition from other funds again as it seeks to diversify its hydrocarbon-centric economy. On top of that lower oil prices have reduced new investment funds available to it - though they still stand at tens of billion of dollars.

It's also faced criticism for extreme secrecy because the fund doesn't disclose its performance or total assets under management.

"As any organization grows up, it makes much more sense to take a more institutionalized approach, and this is something which has happened at other sovereign funds in the past," said a senior Gulf-based banker who works with the QIA.   Continued...