Zawya: Qatar’s commodity empire

Go with what you know – that seems to be Qatar’s motto as it unveils ambitious plans to dominate the global resources sector.

Not content with being home to the world’s third largest natural gas reserves and the largest producer and exporter of liquefied natural gas, apart from being an important OPEC crude producer, Qatar is making a big play to acquire stakes in resource and hydrocarbons companies.

The resource sector is just one of the many focus areas for Qatar’s sovereign wealth funds. Zawya.com profile on Qatar Investment Authority shows a who’s who of blue-chip company that Qatar has a stake in.

These include: Volkswagem AG, Porsche SE, Lagardere, Agricultural Bank of China, Harrods, Barclays, Iberdrola and Canary Wharf Group, among others.

But, while the other blue-chip investments highlights Qatar’s penchant for trophy assets that are underperforming, the play for resource assets shows its strategic effort to corner a significant segment of that sector.

Qatar has reportedly bought a stake in 3% France’s Total SA, and has been interested in acquiring stake in Italy’s Eni, according to media.

It has also reportedly invested up to 5% in Royal Dutch Shell, and according to MEES, the country is planning to be the oil giant’s largest stakeholder.

Shell earned Qatar’s trust after spearheading the country’s gas-to-liquids project. Pearl GTL is the world’s largest plant to turn natural gas into cleaner-burning fuels. It is making steady progress in ramping up production, after selling first commercial shipment of GTL Gasoil in June 2011, according to Shell.

The USD18-billion project was widely seen as Shell’s big bet on Qatar’s natural gas sector, which seems to be paying off.

A stake in Shell allows Qatar great access to The Hague-based Anglo Dutch company’s resources and technology expertise that span the globe. Shell is planning to begin exploring in the U.S. Arctic, which allows the company access to millions of largely undiscovered oil and gas deposits.

The company also recently started the United States largest refinery in partnership with Saudi Aramco, and while the project has run into logistical issues after just a few days of commencement, in the long-term it allows Qatar a stake into Shell’s significant interest in the resurging American energy sector.

Shell is also active in the Russian Arctic to exploit natural gas reserves and oil deposits.

In addition, Shell appears to have exclusive access to shale gas development in China, whose shale gas reserves are estimated to be the largest in the world.