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Monday, June 1, 2009

QFC Invites Local Financial Institutions To Operate In Doha

The oil-rich kingdom of Qatar, which has weathered the global downturn better than some regional financial centres, is offering immense investment opportunities to Malaysia firms in areas such as hydrocarbons, education, transportation, health and general infrastructure sectors.

Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFC) chief executive officer and director general, Stuart Pearce, said the Qatari government has earmarked about US$150 billion for investments in its economy over the next five years from which companies can vie for valuable opportunities.

Established in 2005, QFC is a financial and business centre established by the Qatar government to attract international financial services and multinational corporations to grow and develop the market for financial services in the region.

QFC provides access to over US$140 billion in investments in the dynamic Qatari economy over the next five years as well as over US$1 trillion in planned investments in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) covering six countries.

"The country has so far been able to weather the global downturn better than many of its five fellow GCC member states as the country has looked to new natural gas streams being brought on line to support economic growth," he told Bernama in an e-mail interview.

Formed in 1981, GCC, which comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has plans to form an economic union by 2010.

Pearce said QFC welcomes Malaysian companies that support the financial services industry, such as legal, consultancy and accounting firms.

"The opportunity for firms from Malaysia is supported both by the dynamic Qatari economy and the government's commitment to continue its investment programme," he said.

He said the increasing trade between Qatar and the Gulf region as a whole as well as with Malaysia and other Asean countries would also underpin the attraction of investments for companies from Malaysia, he said.

"Total trade between Malaysia and Qatar as at December 2008 rose about 56 percent to RM1.7 billion compared with RM1.087 billion a year before," he said.

Currently, QFC has been doing relatively well, with over 25 new firms likely to set up offices at the centre this year while enquiries have risen significantly from a year ago.

He said Malaysian financial institutions would find real opportunities in areas such as Takaful and Retakaful business in QFC due to the small number of Islamic insurance companies available in the GCC.

"There are indeed opportunities for firms from Malaysia to establish takaful and retakaful business in the QFC and we look forward to meeting them and helping them to explore how best to approach this market," he said.

However, he said QFC was neither an offshore centre nor a free zone. It has a flat tax regime, levying 10 percent on profits generated by firms licensed by it.

Meanwhile, business can be trans-acted inside or outside Qatar, in local or foreign currencies.

It also allows 100 percent foreign ownership and all profits can be remitted to destinations outside Qatar.

Licensed companies also do not have to be on QFC's premises.

At present, the QFC hosts some 97 firms such as Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Morgan Stanley and UBS, Pearce said.

As for Malaysian presence in Qatar, he said that about 1,800 Malaysians were residing and working in Qatar as of April this year.

Over 10 Malaysian companies operate in Qatar including Gamuda Bhd, UEM Builders, Sime Darby Engineering Sdn and Muhibbah Engineering Sdn. Bhd.


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