The QATARful Nations
In the early 20th century, Qatar becomes a British protectorate. In 1971, Qatar officially gains its independence from the UK and becomes an independent sovereign state. In the mid 21th century, the UK becomes a Qatari colony. 50 years later, the UK becomes part of the Qatarful Nations…
When you arrive to London through Heathrow Airport, the first words you hear are: Hello darling, did you know the Qataris have a 1.4 Billion stake in this Airport? You do not pay attention, you are all excited, this is your first visit to London. You have heard so much about its beautiful shopping centers and Olympic village. You take a cab and head to your friend’s apartment in the prestigious One Hyde Park (owned in part by the Qataris). You are hungry and your friend Joey proposes to go to the Camden market, London’s most popular open-air market. Once you get there you are astonished to learn that 20% of it belongs to the Qataris.
In a pub, you meet old friends, Thierry and Sami, who are going shopping. You have eaten well and are ready for a shopping spree. They take you to Harrods, one of the world most famous department stores. A clerk tells you that Harrods is now owned by the Qataris. They bought it for £1.5 billion. You leave with a few bags and head back home. Along the way, you stop at Sainsbury’s supermarkets. On the bill you read a fact: The Qataris have a 25% stake in our supermarket. You are overwhelmed. You get back home and go to sleep.
The next day, you turn on the TV to see what is happening with the London stock exchange and you are reminded that the Qataris own 20% of it. This is going to be a long day you sigh.
On TV, you also hear a story about a study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich*, saying that Barclays Bank gets the award for being the institution with the biggest corporate control.
Your friends Andre and Joy call you; they are all excited about their jobs in the business district and want you to come visit. Once there, you hear a gentleman in a suit say: Did you know the Qataris are the largest shareholder in the company that owns much of London’s Canary Wharf business district? You are bewildered.
You enter Barclays Bank, to withdraw money. You are proud of being a customer of the most powerful institution in the world. With your luck, the clerk is Qatari… You take a deep breath and smile. But then, with his perfect English accent, he says: Good morning Sir, on this beautiful day, the Qataris, our largest shareholders are inviting you to the Olympic village (also owned by us by the way) for a guided visit. Would you be interested?
You are confused, is this really one of the most powerful nations? You run into a cab and tell the driver to take you to the US embassy. You want to get your Visa and leave the UK.
On the door of the US embassy’s building you read: Building owned by the Qataris!
Oh did I mention: Qatar is Britain’s biggest supplier of imported liquefied natural gas (LNG)? They supply 95% of their total LNG imports.
** Artificial Island, Pearl Qatar
In ancient times, Qatar was known for its beautiful robes, fish drying and pearl hunting. Today it prefers being associated with having one of the lowest tax rates, lowest unemployment (0.1%) and highest per capita income in the world.
As you guessed, oil played an important role in this transition. As I discussed in my article “Natural Gas, what is all this buz about?” , OPEC countries are entering a new paradigm and need to diversify their economies. Qatar is doing it aggressively.
Sheikh Tamim bin Khaifa Al Thani, the young Emir of Qatar is a new ambitious determined leader that plans to make Qatar a prominent country in the world.
Between 2011 and 2016, Qatar will build a new Airport, a city metro, and a national railway. He will be continuing his father’s work and try to turn their once “desert nation” into a prominent global city.
The UK is not the only country on Qatar’s radar. Here are some other investments they made around the world:
– 857 Million paid for Valentino, Italy
– 218 Million value for a 5 yr sponsorship with FC Barcelona, Spain
– 130 Million paid for Paris Saint Germain soccer team, France
– 4.8 Billion Stake in miner Glencore Xstrata, Switzerland
– 700 Million stake in Tiffany, United States
– 2.3 Billion paid for Printemps department store, France
– 3 Billion Stake in Credit Suisse, Switzerland
– 2.8 Billion Stake in Agriculture Bank of China, China
– 1.2 Billion Stake in Banco Santander Brazil, Brazil
Like the Ottoman Empire who, in the 17th century encompassed 32 provinces and ruled the world, the Qatarful nations will rule the 21-22th centuries.
The day the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge become the Sheikh and Sheikha of Cambridge, you will know the UK is part of the Qatarful nations.