In an odd sort of way, the breakdown in relations between Gulf State Qatar and its neighbours (chiefly the Saudis and the UAE) is comical. They’re all a bunch of unrepresentative government’s with questionable records backing the wrong sort of people. The Qatari’s might be criticised for backing the Muslim Brotherhood, but the Saudi’s have also backed some very questionable evangelical Salafi organisations in their time and the UAE is also backing some very grisly characters in the Yemen. As for Iran, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The Iranian regime has an appalling human rights record and backs terrorism but the Saudi’s are far from being saints either. One senses that the poor old Omani’s might be next in the firing line, as they try and navigate between the great powers to their West and to their North.
Anyway, what is obvious is that this is a storm in a tea cup. My guess is that we’ll see a quiet coup of some sorts in Qatar, with more Saudi friendly Royals installed and then…we’ll all forget about it.
Which makes the reaction of investor’s even more puzzling. The Qatar stock exchange is down again today and I think we’ll see a whole host of international investors slowly abandon the place. Remember that lots of institutions have bought into Qatari stocks as a play on the frontier to emerging markets transition. We could see continued selling as the Saudi’s tighten the noose.
Given this likely scenario, it’s not surprising that UK listed Qatar Investment Fund (ticker QIF) is down another 4 to 5% today at around $0.94 per share. That’s not far off the 52 week low of $0.93 I think. We might even see push down below $0.90 as the fund becomes a proxy for Qatari investments generally.
But if you subscribe to my ‘keep calm’ analysis, you’d also have to concede that a bounce back will be possible. The fund does a half decent job of tracking the Qatari market, in most years beating the index by a bit. 2015 wasn’t a banner year for the fund — plunging energy prices — but it doesn’t seem to be doing a bad job overall of investing in those businesses that will benefit from the massive modernization programme funded by the bountiful natural gas supplies. My own sense is that if prices for the fund go below $0.90 I’d be a short term buyer, especially when you consider that at the latest quarterly review the fund’s NAV was about $1.26 a share.