Qatar Investment Authority chief warns banks to open up

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is looking closely at taking stakes in banks across the US, Europe and Asia but its chief executive, prime minister, Sheik Hamad Al-Thani, warns banks to be open if they want to have meaningful relationships with sovereign wealth funds.

The $US60 billion QIA already has stakes in Credit Suisse and Barclays and Al-Thani said he was looking at further opportunities in Europe.

In an interview with CNN, Al-Thani said the QIA had learned about transparency the hard way, having been in talks to buy a stake in an un-named US bank only to find the next day it was bankrupt.

“It is very important that banks should be responsible when talking to sovereign funds if they want them to participate in their economy, that they tell them exactly the situation,” he said. “That is why most sovereign wealth funds are very scared right now.”

Al-Thani said he was fundamentally against nationalisation of banks because “it takes the confidence from the market”.

In addition to banks, Al-Thani said he would look at blue chips across all industries and when the time and entry level were right, QIA would act.

The QIA was founded in 2005 to build up a diversified asset base to complement the country’s wealth of natural resources. In addition to listed securities, it also invests in property, alternative assets and private equity.

In 2007 Qatar had GDP of more than $US63 billion, a per capita income of $US67,000 and a real growth rate of 12.5 per cent. Oil accounts for more than 60 per cent of total government revenue, it the country is the largest producer of liquefied natural gas and its gas reserves are the third largest in the world.