Project Qatar 2019, where over 500 companies from nearly three dozen countries showcased their world-class products and building materials offered good opportunity for private sector firms, especially those with operations in the construction sector, said a senior official of Qatar Chamber which was one of the key participants at the event.

“Project Qatar is one of the most important exhibitions and conferences held in Qatar. It serves different sectors of the local economy, including services sector, industries, construction sector as well as infrastructure developmental projects,” Mohammed bin Ahmed Towar Al Kuwari (pictured), First Vice-Chairman of QC, told The Peninsula on the sidelines of the event.

Al Kuwari added: “The event is being held at the right time when most of the projects are progressing in full swing, and several important projects related to 2022 Fifa games are being given final touches which require a lot of high quality building materials such as tiles, marbles, lighting system and other products.”

He also said that 2019 edition of the coveted event was different from the previous ones as more companies and countries participated at the expo. And the conference that ran parallel to the expo also had more speakers from a wide range of organizations.

Qatar Chamber, the country’s largest and oldest private industry representative body, participated in the 16th edition of Project Qatar 2019, which was held under the patronage of H E Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, Prime Minister and Interior Minister, and concluded at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center yesterday. The Chamber, through its pavilion, showcased and explained the services it provides as a representative of the Qatari private sector and its efforts to contribute to enhancing communication between local companies, companies and foreign institutions participating in the exhibition.

Al Kuwari also said: “Project Qatar was a good opportunity for the private sector, especially the construction companies, to learn about the building materials products offered by the participating companies and the services provided by them. Some of the major participating countries such as Italy, Algeria, Germany and others, paved the way for new partnerships and alliances to provide the local market with high quality products, services and equipment, especially since the exhibitors were mostly related to the construction and infrastructure sector projects related to 2022 Fifa World Cup.”

He added that the Chamber is keen to participate in supporting economic and trade exhibitions and activities related to enhancing cooperation between the private sector in Qatar and its sister countries. The QC is continuously engaged with foreign institutions, investors and companies that have shown interest in identifying the investment climate and the several promising sectors of the booming economy.

He noted the success of the previous editions of the exhibition, which is considered the most prominent business event in the region in the field of building and construction, whose activities have succeeded in bringing together Qatari employers and investors with buyers, suppliers and decision makers from 34 participating countries.

Qatar’s construction industry looks bright and robust, and holds great potential as a showcase for the whole region, Germany’s Ambassador to Qatar, Hans-Udo Muzel has said at the Ambassadors’ panel discussion at the on-going Project Qatar Conference 2019 which opened on Monday.

According to Ambassador Muzel, the construction sector projects currently implemented in Qatar are sustainable because they go beyond the Fifa World Cup 2022, and are purposely being built in relation to the Qatar National Vision 2030.

He added that there is currently a niche market demand for smart modern city solutions in the country and German companies could assist and work with Qatari companies here to create knowledge transfer related to smart city solutions.

He added, “We also need to look into the post-construction phase. We have these high tech infrastructures, and Qatar will need world class high tech maintenance systems which will also create a lot of businesses and job opportunities. Europe is open for business and open to engage with you”. Further, the Ambassador also reiterated that there will be no distraction in trade and financial services between Qatar and Europe even if the UK leaves the European Union.

Also speaking during the event, Turkish Ambassador to Qatar, Fikret Ozer has reiterated the strong economic relations between Qatar and Turkey, and highlighted that there are 52 Turkish companies taking part in the exhibition.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Qatar, Syed Ahsan Raza Shah noted that almost 150,000 Pakistanis are currently involved in Qatar’s construction industry for the past four decades with many of them working as labourers and workers. He added: “Also, several Pakistani construction companies have been taking part in Qatar’s infrastructure development. We’re really proud of the contribution of Pakistanis in Qatar’s development. And we want to bring in more companies, especially we have experience in building some of the biggest construction projects in the world”.

Talking to The Peninsula on the sidelines of the event, Italy’s Trade Commissioner to Qatar Giosafat Rigano’ also said that over 100 B2B meetings will be conducted between Qatari and Italian companies during the three-day event to further strengthen trade relations between the two countries.

He said: “This year, the Italian pavilion which showcases 20 Italian companies is the largest European pavilion at the exhibition. We have companies specialising in wood, stones, building materials, smart city and smart factory solutions for security, healthy systems, and logistics among others. The Italian Trade Agency in Qatar has arranged more than 100 B2B meetings between Italian companies and local Qatari companies. We expect new agreements and contracts with local operators during the event. This is a concrete way of showing our increasingly growing important cooperation with Qatar. I’m hoping that these meetings can be really fruitful and valuable in terms of investment,” Rigano’ also said.

Qatar-Malaysia bilateral trade and economic relations are set to witness major boost in the coming years as both sides are working aggressively to expand cooperation. A trade delegation from Malaysia representing a wide range of sectors, including leading suppliers of building and construction materials, medical devices and products other manufacturing industries, is participating in this year’s edition of the Project Qatar, which kicked off yesterday at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre.

The trade delegation spearheaded by MATRADE, a trade and export promotion arm of the Malaysian government, has 14 representatives offering their expertise in facility management, latex medical glove, cleaning and sanitizing products, stethoscope, wood, plastic composite wall tiles, fibre mastic advanced asphalt, advanced insulation material, interior design and building information modeling.

The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) will focus on Malaysian new technology in building material and medical device as well as promoting expertise in the facility management. This mission will include series of exclusive sessions for Malaysian companies to collaborate with Qatari business community on promoting their products and services.

Mansor Shah Wahid (pictured), MATRADE’s Director for Central, West Asia and Africa, who is also the leader of delegation, said: “The companies are expected to highlight their value proposition on offering their latest products and services and at the same time comply with the latest trend and market demands in the Qatar. Qatar has been one of our major markets in the region. This can be seen from our bilateral trade with Qatar showed positive trend and series of officials and business delegation exchange visit from Qatar and Malaysia. This was supported on discussion to further strengthen both countries cooperation through Malaysia-Qatar

Joint Business Council early this year.” Wahid added: “Total trade Malaysia and Qatar registered 36 per cent growth in 2018 and Qatar is Malaysia’s 5th trading partner in the region. This mission will be MATRADE’s second business delegation programme to Qatar this year and today, we bring you expertise on construction, medical device and pharmaceutical companies to collaborate with business community here. The ongoing implementation of major development projects across various sectors made us eager to be part of Qatar’s long-term vision.

The bilateral trade volume between Qatar and Malaysia reached $915m (QR3.33bn) where Malaysia’s export to Qatar registered 37 per cent growth amounting to $246m. Malaysia’s major export to Qatar includes machinery parts, processed foods, palm oil products, iron and steel products and manufacturers of metal. Malaysia’s continue sourcing chemical products, crude petroleum and petroleum products from Qatar.

Hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022 is likely to bring a one-time boost of QR6.43bn to Qatar’s Food & Beverage (F&B) sector, according to the latest Sector Analysis by the Middle East Credit Rating Agency (MERatings).

Citing the Food and Beverage Services Sector in Qatar 2018 study which was conducted by the Qatar Development Bank (QDB), MERatings said that hosting of the mega sporting event in 2022 will bring an estimated additional tourists of 3.1 million to the country with an average spending of QR288 per person per day spent on F&B for a stay ranging from three to eleven days.

In its Food and Beverage Services Sector in Qatar 2018 study, the QDB also said that the total revenue of F&B outlets in the country is estimated to increase to QR14.26bn in 2026 from QR6.99bn in 2016, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.4 percent. This growth is largely in line with the projected growth of the population and annual increase in tourist arrivals during this period.

The report added that 62 new upscale hotels, including a mix of four stars, five stars, and seven stars are scheduled to commence operations in Qatar by 2020. With each hotel likely to have an average of three F&B outlets, the report said 186 new F&B outlets could also be established in upscale hotels by 2020.

The study also said the eight stadiums expected to be commissioned by 2020 to host the Fifa World Cup 2022 will also serve as key locations for F&B outlets such as cafes, Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs), kiosks and mobile food trucks in particular.

Metro stations for the Doha Metro Project, which will open to the public by 2020 with 37 stations for its first phase and completed with 72 stations by 2026 will also serve as key locations for upcoming F&B outlets such as cafes, casual dining, QSRs, and cafeterias.

According to the study, fine dining segment in Qatar is estimated to grow to QR1.37bn by 2026 from QR675m in 2016. There were 142 fine dining outlets operating in Qatar, which accounted for 4.8 percent of the country’s total F&B outlets, the report added.

DOHA:  Qatar Insurance Company (QIC), the leading insurer in Qatar and the Middle East North African (Mena) region reported a net profit of QR 272m for the first quarter of 2019. The Mena markets continued to produce stable premiums with underwriting profitability, weathering geopolitical headwinds in the region. QIC’s international operations grew in select low-volatility segments and now account for 76 percent of its total portfolio.

In Q1 2019, QIC adopted a more restrictive and selective approach to new business generation, reflecting the company’s continued focus on de-risking its book and placing more emphasis on low-volatility segments. Gross written premiums (GWP) remained stable at QR3.5bn.

The Group’s international carriers, namely Qatar Re, Antares, QIC Europe Limited (QEL) and its Gibraltar based carriers continued to expand in select low-volatility areas and now account for approximately 76 percent of QIC’s total GWP, compared to 73 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

The Group’s net underwriting result improved by 45 percent to QR166m compared to QR115m for the same period last year. This positive development reflects the Group’s successful shift towards lower-volatility business which provides a predictable long-term stream of profits. In addition, the improved technical performance is a result of the de-risking of non-profitable business across QIC’s international units in 2018.

Overall, the Group’s net profit for Q1 2019 increased year-on-year by 15 percent to QR272m, driven by both improving underwriting results and resilient investment income.

The Group recorded stable investment income of QR275m for the period. QIC’s total investment return, including capital gains and losses, amounted to an annualized 6.2 percent.

QIC’s investment prowess continues to draw accolades from industry professionals, as most recently at the MENA Fund Manager Performance Awards 2019 where the company’s investment teams were awarded for the best fund performance in two categories: Qatar Equity Fund and QIC GCC Equity Fund.

During the reporting period, QIC has vigorously maintained its focus on streamlining operations in order to further improve its operational efficiency. At Q1 2019, the administrative expense ratio for its core operations came in at 6.1 percent. The Group’s ongoing endeavor towards process efficiencies and automation continued to yield fruit.

Commenting on the financial performance for Q1 2019, Khalifa Abdulla Turki Al Subaey, Group President & CEO of QIC Group, said: “For QIC, the first quarter was a period of stability and consolidation. As part of our de-risking effort, we have adopted a more selective approach to writing new business, rewarded by an improving technical performance. QIC remains firmly committed to shifting to lines of business with lower volatility where we see a more attractive risk-return potential.

“In addition to underwriting, QIC’s investment prowess and commitment to operating efficiency continue to bear fruit and are essential to sustaining the Group’s overall profitability. Based on the strength and diversity of our performance engines, I remain confident in QIC’s future growth and profitability prospects, which should further benefit from what appears to be a slightly firming global re/insurance trading environment.”

A high-level Chinese delegation led by the Special Envoy for the Foreign Minister Chen MingMing will visit Qatar by month-end. The delegation which includes officials from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs will participate in the upcoming Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) Conference which will be hosted by Qatar from April 29. The delegation is likely to meet with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs H E Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

Qatar is one of the 18 founding members of the ACD, which was established in 2001 to consolidate Asian strengths to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for the Asian people. Chairing this year’s conference, Qatar will also host a forum for businessmen which is aimed at opening new opportunities for joint cooperation to expand trade and financial markets and increase the economic competitiveness of Asian countries.

ACD member states have in the past also proposed to be prime movers in 20 areas of cooperation, including energy, agriculture, biotechnology, tourism, poverty alleviation, IT development, e-education, and financial cooperation.

Addressing a media round table at his residence yesterday, China’s Ambassador to Qatar Li Chen also said that bilateral relations between Qatar and China has been growing. He said trade volume between the two countries has increased by 30 percent to $14.5bn in 2018 compared to the previous year. He also said Qatar now supplies 40 percent of China’s LNG requirements.

The Ambassador also said there are currently around 200 Chinese and joint Qatar-Chinese companies operating in Qatar. Huawei is also in the middle of talks between Ooredoo and Vodafone to explore further opportunities in the 5G technology, the Ambassador added.

Tourism between the two countries is also flourishing added the Ambassador. To date, Qatar Airways operates 49 direct flights to seven cities across China.

The Ambassador also said that cultural ties between Qatar and China will get a further boost with Qatar Museums Chairperson H E Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani chairing the Qatar-China Friendship Association.

Speaking about the ongoing ‘Belt and Road’ forum being held in Beijing to highlight China’s ‘project of the century’, the Ambassador reiterated that Qatar was one of the first countries to support China’s global initiative. He also said the Minister of Transport and Communications H E Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti and Minister of Commerce and Industry H E Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari will also be addressing the forum in Beijing.

It may be noted that an MOU to draft the Qatari-Chinese implementation plan of the Belt and Road initiative was signed during the visit of the Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to China earlier this year.

According to Chinese state media, China has signed more than 170 agreements with 125 countries as part of its modern-day Silk Road project. It also reported that between 2013 and 2018, the deals have totaled more than $90bn in Chinese investment.

DOHA:  Qatar First Bank (QFB) has released its financial results for the three-months period ended 31 March 2019, reporting a net profit of QR3.2m attributable to equity-holders of the bank, compared with a net loss of QR47.1m in the same period of 2018, as well as a 71 percent increase in revenues of QR57.5m, compared with QR33.6m in the same period of 2018.

QFB is a leading Shari’ah-compliant bank based in Qatar, regulated by QFCRA and listed on the Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE).

Sheikh Faisal bin Thani Al Thani, new QFB Chairman, said: “We are glad to see the turnaround performance of the bank by generating a net profit in the first quarter. Positive results are a direct manifest that QFB is back on the right track with a new strategy that executive management has developed and implemented. This is only the start and I am looking to see more over the current financial year.

Board and the executive management team’s efforts fruited these positive results. With the new elected BoD, assisted by the executive team, we will work together to mine new opportunities and avail them for the best interests of QFB shareholders, customers and depositors.”

Key highlights for the current period being a total income growth of 71 percent compared to the same period of 2018, mainly driven by an increase in fee based income on structured products and investments from QR6.5m to QR14.4m, and increase in net financing income from QR3.2m to QR11.9m. The increase in fee-based income is due to the bank’s newly implemented business strategy of moving away from asset-based income generation to being a fee income based business. The increase in net financing income was mainly driven by a reduction in the costs of funding due to better management of the bank’s loan to deposit ratio and more competitive profit rates offered on deposits.

Bank’s stakeholders are witnessing the results of revised strategy where the bank is undergoing a transformational shift from a proprietary based investment model to having a diversified base of fee-based revenue streams. Align to this new strategy; QFB has already begun generating fee income by offering client-focused investment products, primarily in real estate and aviation.

At the recently concluded bank’s AGM, QFB shareholders have elected a robust well diversified new BoD consists of prominent economic and business figures which will definitely support QFB transactions volume and work to improve the bank financial performance over current financial year.

Qatar Chamber (QC) yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Serbia Chamber of Commerce and Industry to establish a joint Business Council in an effort to increase cooperation between the Qatari and Serbian private sectors as well as increase the exchange visits between businessmen of both sides.

The MoU was signed during a meeting held at Qatar Chamber’s headquarters in the presence of a number of Qatari businessmen and their counterparts from Serbia. Representatives of 14 Serbian companies seeking trade alliances in Qatar were also present during the event.

The MoU was signed by Qatar Chamber’s First Vice-Chairman Mohamed bin Ahmed bin Towar Al Kuwari and Jelena Jovanovic, the head of the Serbian delegation and Director of the International Economic Relations Sector at the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia.

The meeting was also attended by Qatar’s Ambassador to Serbia Sheikh Mubarak bin Fahad Al Thani, Serbia’s Ambassador to Qatar Jasminko Pozderac, and QC’s Board Member Mohamed bin Ahmed Al Obaidli.

In a speech, Al Kuwari, said that Qatar and Serbia enjoy good and developing relations due to the interest and desire of both countries’ leaderships to develop these relations.

He also said that trade between both countries reached $26mn last year, which is fairly positive despite both countries facing blockade issues.

Al Kuwari also called on Qatari and Serbian companies to explore business and investment opportunities available in both sides and build genuine partnerships for the advantage of enhancing trade exchange.

He also called on Serbian companies to invest in Qatar and benefit from incentives offered by the government and the attractive investment climate as well as legislative environment that attract foreign investment.

Meanwhile, Jovanovic praised the relations between both countries, and added that the signing of the MOU to establish a joint business council would help in promoting cooperation between Qatari and Serbian firms in various industrial sectors.

She also said: “This MOU will pave the way for successful collaboration between both countries and achieve mutually beneficial business goals in near future”.

During the event, Jovanovic also delivered a presentation about Serbia including its economy, investment climate and opportunities, and reiterated that the main sectors in Serbia are services, industry, agriculture and construction.

Doha: Qatar Petroleum today issued an ‘invitation to tender’ for the reservation of ship construction capacity required for the LNG carrier fleet for its North Field Expansion (NFE) Project, which will increase Qatar’s LNG production capacity from 77 million tons per annum (mta) to 110 mta starting in 2024.

In addition to addressing shipping requirements for the North Field Expansion Project, the tender covers shipping requirements for the LNG volumes that will be purchased and offtaken by Ocean LNG (a 70%-30% joint venture between Qatar Petroleum and ExxonMobil) from the Golden Pass LNG export project in the United States, which is currently under construction and is planned to start by 2024. The tender also includes options for replacement requirements for Qatar’s existing LNG fleet.

Commenting on this occasion, H E Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, the Minister of State for Energy Affairs, the President & CEO of Qatar Petroleum, said: “With this significant step, Qatar Petroleum embarks on another major LNG ship-building campaign expected to initially deliver 60 LNG carriers in support of the planned production expansion, with a potential to exceed 100 new LNG carriers over the next decade. This important initiative reinforces Qatar Petroleum’s commitment to its global reputation as a safe and reliable LNG producer at all times and under all circumstances.”

Qatar Petroleum has entrusted Qatargas to execute this LNG ship building program on its behalf. As the World’s Premier LNG Company, Qatargas has an established history of safely and successfully delivering such major projects. This includes the previous campaign that resulted in the construction of 45 Q-Flex and Q-Max ships, the world’s largest LNG carriers, which constitute the backbone of Qatar’s LNG carrier fleet today.

Al Kaabi added: “This tender, along with the recently released Engineering, Procurement and Construction tender for four new mega LNG trains planned as part of the North Field Expansion Project, constitute two monumental and historical milestones as we make major strides in our commitment towards the further development of the world’s largest non-associated gas field.”

Sovereign bond issuances dominated GCC’s debt market activity in the first quarter of 2019, with notable multi-tranche issuances by the State of Qatar and the Saudi Arabia.

The PwC GCC Capital Market Watch for Q1, 2019 noted that Qatar issued $12.0bn worth of sovereign bonds in three tranches: a $6.0bn tranche with a coupon rate of 4.8 percent, maturing in 30 years; a $4.0bn tranche with a coupon rate of 4.0 percent, maturing in 10 years and a $2.0bn tranche with a coupon rate of 3.4 percent, maturing in five years. QNB Finance Limited issued a single tranche of corporate bonds with a coupon rate of 3.5 percent, maturing in five years.

The inclusion of GCC sovereign bonds to JP Morgan’s Emerging Market Bond Index (EMBI) from January 2019 is expected to further boost the demand for GCC sovereign bonds, as evidenced by the over-subscription of Qatar and recent Saudi bond issuances.

Corporate debt activity was also very active in the region with a number of issuances this quarter stemming from banking institutions, including a Tier 1 sukuk by Dubai Islamic Bank PJSC and programme drawdowns by Qatar International Islamic Bank, Mashreqbank PSC and First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC.

The PwC report noted that the IPO activities eased in the region during the Q1. After a busy end to last year, 2019 started softly with just one IPO in the GCC during the first quarter. Global activity was also muted, with IPO proceeds more than halved compared to the same quarter in 2018. This is perhaps reflective of continuing geopolitical uncertainties including Brexit, the US-China trade war, and the longest ever shutdown of the US government.

Although the price of oil increased during the quarter, this was cautiously received by investors, given that the increase was mainly driven by Opec agreements on reducing production.

Expansionary policies, government incentives and continuing privatisation efforts in the region are helping to improve market sentiment. A number of GCC companies have announced their IPO plans for the next 12-18 months.

Looking ahead, PwC expects some rebound in the level of GCC IPO activity with a number of companies in the region having announced their plans to list in the next 12 to 18 months. On 10 April 2019, Network International, the largest payment services provider in the region, priced its London Main Market premium IPO, raising proceeds of over $1bn – becoming the largest IPO on the London Stock Exchange so far in 2019.

The region’s debt market continues to be active, with debt products proving to be of interest to investors.