Qatar is investing in infrastructure projects to become the next rising star of the Middle East. The Wall, a Doha-based real estate developer, has been taking advantage of the country’s steady growth
Qatar is growing fast. In 2011, the oil-rich Gulf state saw its real GDP grow by 18.8 percent – the world’s fastest rate, and one that European economies can only wish for. It may still only be the 52nd wealthiest country in terms of GDP, but in the world of business and finance Qatar is a real power player, mainly due its bountiful oil and gas reserves. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), a sovereign wealth fund, is a regular fixture in the news, often associated with the buying or merging of billionaire companies or infrastructure projects worldwide, so it is no surprise that, like neighbours Dubai, Qatar has been investing heavily in real estate and development projects at home.
Qatar is barely the size of Belgium, but has over 25 billion barrels-worth of crude oil stored under its sands, and 25 trillion cubic metres of natural gas, or 13 percent of the world’s total. The QIA has become an expert in investing the emirate’s vast natural resource wealth in Europe, which in turn has greatly raised its profile in investment circles. Qatar is now seeking to capitalise on this image and emerge, like Dubai, as a jewel of the Middle East; a haven for business and tourism alike.
“The real estate sector in Qatar has very bright prospects,” says Dr Naseer Homoud, Founder and CEO of The Wall, a Doha-based real estate developer. The sector has been booming since 2005, as construction for the 2006 Asian Olympics – held in the Qatari capital – caused the industry to go into overdrive. According to Homoud, before the sporting event the real estate development industry in the country was not prepared to deal with the increased demand for infrastructure projects. “Many local, regional and international construction companies began arriving in Doha to gain from the opportunities available here,” he says. “These companies gained from the demand, and it proved a catalyst for accelerating the sector.”
New life in the sector
Off the back of its success with the 2006 Asian Olympics, Qatar has won its bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, giving real estate developers like The Wall much to look forward to in the next decade. The successful bid has breathed new life into the real estate development market, according to Homoud. “The environment is conducive for growth of the sector,” he says. “We can be immensely optimistic about it, at least for the next decade.”
Over the past few years, the country has invested in becoming a business centre in the Middle East, and the second busiest banking centre in the region, and now it is turning its hand to tourism
As a leading real estate construction and development company, The Wall has been involved with many new developments associated with the preparation for the World Cup, providing everything from strategic planning and direction to tourism strategies and tax analysis for any given project. “We provide full packages to our clients,” says Homoud. “We take care of all of their concerns pertaining to safety, luxurious life, provision of daily essential services in their apartments, villas, etc. and provide them with full facilities. Our aim is to provide premium housing and commercials to our clients on par with international standards but within the affordability range of the regional market.”
Among other things, The Wall has specialised in the hospitality development market. “Qatar is not only among one of the most booming countries in the Middle East but in the world. Even before Doha was granted its bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, the tourism sector in Qatar was promising,” says Homoud. He attributes increased government spending in infrastructure and the services sector to the boom in the tourism industry, especially since Qatar emerged as the leading natural gas exporter in the world in 2010. “This made it possible for the government to provide more money to different sectors. Winning the bid for 2022 FIFA World Cup has further accelerated this sector as the requirement for more hotels became urgent. Therefore, more and more international brand name hotels came to Doha to sign joint venture with local investors,” he says.
Part of the reason for the renewed investment in tourism, infrastructure and services is the country’s dependence on its natural resources for income. Like many oil rich nations, Qatar is seeking to diversify its income in order to guarantee wealth in the future; after all, oil and gas are finite. Over the past few years, the country has invested in becoming a business centre in the Middle East, and the second busiest banking centre in the region, and now it is turning its hand to tourism, with the help of upcoming sporting events. “Until now, we have been focusing on business travellers,” says Homoud. “However, now we are changing our approach because we are going to witness the arrival of sports tourists. Such tourists require different kind of facilities. We need to design our hotels and other tourism facilities keeping needs of such tourists in mind.”
As a result of rapid growth and prolonged investment, the infrastructure and real estate market in Qatar is extremely competitive. In order to retain its position as a market leader, The Wall relies on Homoud’s expertise and deep market understanding. As Founder and CEO of the company, he knows better than anyone that “understanding the market needs is the key to (our) success.” In order to remain competitive in an industry flooded with multinational developers, Homoud has used his knowledge to advise international operators working in Qatar. “In that way,” he says, “we become partners, and not competitors, to international developers.”
Despite its natural wealth, Qatar is still an emerging economy, and basic resources such as public education, healthcare and transport systems are still being developed. For Homoud, this is the perfect opportunity for business, while at the same time contributing to the community. As a result, The Wall has become one of the leading developers of public sector infrastructure projects. “I have deep and abiding commitment to the public,” says Homoud. “I am very careful when I deal with government projects and try to put in extra efforts to ensure that the specifications of the project are fully complied with. Streets, buildings, facilities and institutions built as part of public projects are meant to improve quality of life, so while working on these projects I feel myself as part of these efforts and try my best to do them in the best possible manner.” The company strives to provide the best possible service that focuses on quality, timetables and deadlines; all imperative issues when dealing in the public sector.
Many Middle Eastern economies are moving along the same lines as Qatar and investing heavily in infrastructure, and The Wall plans to expand its services to Saudi Arabia and parts of the UAE. For Homoud, it is a golden opportunity, in which his knowhow and expertise in the Qatari real estate development sector will be invaluable. “In Saudi Arabia, in addition to these individual housing demands, there is also good demand for commercial projects,” he explains. “We all are aware that Saudi Arabia exports 10 million barrels of oil on daily basis, which helps the kingdom to to develop its infrastructure. In case of the UAE, prospects are encouraging, also.” The company has already announced the development of affordable housing complexes in KSA, and projects in Jordan and the UAE will soon follow.
Through its commitment to public sector developments and its eye for investments, The Wall has been poised to take advantage of the favourable economic situation, and as Doha emerges as a diverse business centre the company will aim to continue along its successful path.