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Construction of Lusail, Qatar's newest planned city, has begun on the outksirts of Doha. The World Cup final is scheduled to be played at Lusail. Emre Rende for The National
Construction of Lusail, Qatar's newest planned city, has begun on the outksirts of Doha. The World Cup final is scheduled to be played at Lusail. Emre Rende for The National

Even Qatar faces funding challenge ahead of 2022 World Cup

Qatar's preparations for the 2022 Fifa World Cup could face funding challenges as its financial services sector becomes increasingly stretched by efforts to meet the government's development plan.

Qatar's preparations for the 2022 Fifa World Cup could face funding challenges as the country's tiny financial services sector becomes increasingly stretched by efforts to meet the government's US$130 billion (Dh477.51bn) development plan.

Despite soaring wealth brought by the rapid expansion of Qatar's natural-gas-fired economy during the past few years, which has made the country the richest in the world per capita, a Qatari government agency has warned of funding challenges brought about by the euro-zone debt crisis.

"The world economy presents risks - particularly from the euro zone - which could weigh on these surpluses and affect private funding for the huge capital-project pipeline," Qatar's general secretariat for development planning wrote in its annual economic outlook for 2012-2013.

"Although Qatar has fiscal resilience and considerable financial strength, its ease in funding the heavy infrastructure pipeline and its other needs could be impaired by adverse global developments," the report added.

In particular, the report warned that further turbulence on global markets could lead to "lower commodity prices and funding challenges for banks and projects".

Investment by European banks currently accounts for the majority of all foreign funding for Qatar.

European banks accounted for 53.2 per cent of all foreign claims on Qatar at the end of last year, which totalled $68.3bn, according to the Bank for International Settlements, an umbrella organisation of central banks.

Bank lending to Qatar's government has soared this year as the country rolls out infrastructure spending estimated at $39bn during the next two years, including the construction of a metro line, ports and an airport.

The government will also fund the development of Lusail City, due for completion by 2015. The World Cup final is scheduled to be played at Lusail.

Qatar itself, perceived as a haven because of its vast foreign reserves and gas resources, remains able to raise cheap financing from international markets.

Yields on the country's 10-year government bonds, which pay a coupon of 4.5 per cent, fell to a record low of 3.1752 per cent this week.

The country has attempted to develop a yield curve to borrow at different maturities in an effort to raise funds directly from international investors.

But Qatar's domestic banking sector is rapidly finding itself in need of new sources of funds, as sector-wide loans currently outstrip deposits by a wide margin - similar to the situation with Dubai's banks before the onset of the global financial crisis.

The rush of development has led to an 11.9 per cent boom in total loans across the banking sector to 451.8bn riyals (Dh455.7bn) so far this year, according to data from Qatar's central bank.

Total credit facilities represent 121.3 per cent of total loans.

Liquidity in Qatar's banking sector is expected to remain tight as western banks find raising financing more expensive, said Timucin Engin, a financial analyst at Standard & Poor's.

"Expect some deceleration in lending growth this year," he said. "Lending growth is very fast and deposit growth is below lending growth. "Banks say they have to increase non-deposit borrowing."

For some Qatari banks, the lending boom is creating opportunities to boost profits.

On Wednesday, Qatar National Bank, the country's biggest lender, reported a second-quarter increase of 16.7 per cent in profits to 2.1bn riyals.

The bank typically captures the majority of government-related spending.

However, analysts have warned that lenders to Qatar's private sector are likely to lose out.

ghunter@thenational.ae

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