Qatar Treads Off the Beaten Path in Quest for U.S. Investments

(Bloomberg) -- Qatari investors are hitting the road less traveled in their current tour of the U.S., sizing up deals in South Carolina, Florida and Texas rather than hitting only New York and other mainstays.

The biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas has already spent more than $17 billion of the $35 billion it plans to invest in the U.S. by 2020, with an additional $10 billion earmarked for infrastructure projects, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Jassim Bin Mohammed Al Thani, Qatar’s minister of economy and commerce, said in an interview in Washington.

“The economic relationship between Qatar and the U.S. keeps increasing year after year,” said Sheikh Ahmed, who is also the vice-chairman of the country’s $320 billion sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority. The fund plans to open its second office in Silicon Valley, while private Qatari investors are pooling their funds to co-invest in deals around the U.S., he said.

It’s also looking to diversify beyond New York and San Francisco and has found attractive opportunities in places it’s never visited before, he added.

Qatar has been under economic and diplomatic embargo by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt since June. The direct impact of the diplomatic rift is fading, the International Monetary Fund said last month, and the country’s growth is expected to accelerate to 2.8 percent this year from 2.3 percent in 2017, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Last year, the country moved quickly to secure new supply lines for food and materials to replace goods disrupted by the embargo. It also announced reforms to attract foreign investment, including building a free-trade zone, granting permanent residency and other measures to boost non-oil growth.

These plans are still in the works, Sheikh Ahmed said, and include a 10-year tax waiver designed to woo foreign companies to Qatar. “Our economy is still doing well even under blockade,” he said.

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