Tuesday, January 17, 2012

News Update Qatar eyes Phl partners for $1-B investments

MANILA, Philippines - Local businessmen, including representatives from San Miguel Power Corp. met with visiting investors from Qatar to forge partnerships in line with Qatar’s bid to invest $1 billion here.
In an interview, Trade and Industry Undersecretary Cristino L. Panlilio said an investment team from Qatar visited the Philippines, led by Zayid Rashid Al, director for Asia and Africa Affairs, and Tarik Muslib, head legal counsel of the Qatar Investment Association.
The 20-man Qatari business delegation visited the Philippines early this month to assess first hand the ability of the Philippines to absorb Qatari investments.
“The investments can start from $1 billion and could be more because Qatar has a $300-billion fund for foreign direct investments and portfolio investments,” Panlilio said.
Panlilio said the Qataris have the ability to fund the Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects of the government as well as other projects. He said the Qatar team included representatives from various industries like steel, petroleum, mining, food and real estate.
Panlilio said the Board of Investments (BOI) conducted a briefing on the various investment opportunities in the Philippines followed by an intensive business matching led by Ayala Land’s Tony Aquino.
Other participating firms were SMC Power, Century Property, Marc Ventures, Steel Asia and Citibank, among others.
According to Panlilio, the potential $1 billion investment would be spread over a number of investments. He said they are drawing up an agreement wherein 85 percent of the investment is from the Qatar fund, while the Philippines would put up the remaining 15 percent. The counterpart investment could either be from the government, or a Philippine-based company.
Panlilio said the Qatari investors would like to invest in power projects. “They have a lot of LNG fired-power plants in Qatar.”
Panlilio said Qatari are very interested in investing in food and agribusiness. Some of the funds could also go to portfolio investments.
The $1 billion fund will be from the state-owned Qatari Investment Authority. Panlilio said the $1 billion is only a small portion of the fund earmarked by Qatar for foreign investments.
Panlilio said the Emir of Qatar is set to visit the Philippines from January 22 to 25, and the government is readying the investment agreements which is expected to be signed during the Emir’s visit.
The Philippines and Qatar has been negotiating for years for an investment agreement, but negotiation stalled.
The negotiations resumed last month. Panlilio along with his team was in Qatar early this month for the third round of talks. He said they are busy drafting the agreement so that it can be signed during the Emir’s visit.
He said the agreement is 95 percent completed. “We already agreed on the most important issues.”
Aside from the $1 billion investible fund, the agreement would have a mutual investment protection clause and a no double taxation agreement.
Under the mutual investment protection clause, Panlilio said that Qatar forms would like to be on equal footing with Filipino companies here. They Qataris would like preferential investment deals, but Panlilio said Qatar understands that countries where the Philippines have bilateral agreements have an advantage.
Qatar, Panlilio added is also seeking most favored nation (MFN) benefits. - By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio