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Doing business in Qatar

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In 2011, while much of the world remained gridlock by slow growth or marred by a recession, Qatar recorded 19 per cent GDP growth.

It's no secret that Qatar is one of the world's richest countries, and still boasts one of the fastest growing economies. The Gulf State's National Vision 2030, comprehensive strategy for growth leading up to 2030, will ensure that it remains an attractive investment hub, not just in oil and gas, but also in technology, education and financial services.

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Investing in Qatar

Despite a large number of foreign enterprises and expats in Qatar, setting up shop in the Arab emirate is not quite as straight forward as one may hope, and regulated by the state Qatari royal family. That said, however, Qatar is a small country full of cash-rich companies and individuals that has opened its doors to long, ongoing investment projects. Overcoming such obstacles can, therefore, be highly lucrative.

Foreign companies looking to carry on their business in Qatar will mainly need to do so along with a local partner since firms must have at least 51 per cent Qatari ownership.

While this may seem a hindrance, there are exceptions: All organisation based in one of Qatar's two so-called ‘free zones’ - The Qatar Financial Centre and the Qatar Science and Technology Park - may work under 100 per cent foreign ownership.

Furthermore, foreign investors may also own 100 per cent of a company with special permission from the Ministry of Business and Trade, though such exceptions are rare and may only be within the so-called "priority sectors", such as agriculture, health, education, energy and mining, and many others. The project must also be deemed compatible with Qatar's long-term development plan.

Investment into state-run services is prohibited, such as water and electricity.

Relations with the UK

Relations between Qatar and the United Kingdom are very friendly, with the UK being one of Qatar's key trading partners.

The UK is Qatar's second biggest trade partner for imports (9.20 per cent of overall imports, behind only Germany), with British exports more than doubling in recent years. British imports mainly consist of industrial equipment, electrical, cars and power generation equipment. The value of UK's invisible exports (legal, financial and consultancy services) to Qatar also reached just short of half-a-billion pounds in 2010.

Companies and individuals wishing to export Qatar must register in the Importers Register and be approved by the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. If working in the technology sector, it is useful to know that Imports to the Qatar Science and Technology Park have no customs duties.

Qatar has also made significant investments in the UK, the emirate’s main trading partner within the EU, namely in property and infrastructure (Harrods and the Shard in London are two notable examples).

Expect trade between the UK and Qatar to continue strongly. The Gulf state’s two principle economic growth plans – the National Vision 2030 and the National Development Strategy 2011-2016 – were given a further boost by the announcement that Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which only enforced renewed confidence in economic growth for the upcoming decade.

Areas that present notable investment opportunities for UK firms include the construction, education and training sector, financial and professional services, energy and environment, transport, and healthcare.

Good to know

– Qatar implements a low corporate-tax rate of 10 per cent, while there is no tax on employee income salaries.

– There are no foreign exchange controls; all profits, proceeds of sale and capital on liquidation can be repatriated.

– There are relatively few restrictions on recruiting staff from overseas.

Facts

– The capital city is Doha

– Qatar boasts the world's third largest natural gas reserves - which in 2013 was estimated to be at 910 trillion cubic feet.

– The Gulf state is the world's largest producer of liquefied natural gas.

– Qatar is one of the smallest Gulf states at 11,500 square kilometres - roughly the size of Wales.

– Qatar is a constitutional monarchy under emir His Highness Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al-Thani.

– The same goes for its population, which is just under 2 million, but is quickly growing. Qatar’s population has doubled in the last eight years with roughly 80 per cent being expats.

– The official language is Arabic, although English is widely used and is the preferred language within business circles.

– Heavily dependent on imports, but achieves a net surplus due to the vast amounts oil and gas reserves.

– Aside from its oil and gas sector, the country is also investing heavily in health, education infrastructure and technology.

Cultures and customs

As an Islamic state, alcohol sale is strictly regulated and pork products are banned.

Qatar’s legal system works on a mix of civil law and Islamic law

Facetime, networking and exchanging business cards are all important.

Dress code for men is suits, while women are expected to cover their elbows and knees.

It's a small place, so reputation is important.

 

Did you find this article useful? If so, you might also enjoy our guide to business etiquette in Egypt.

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