Qatar First Bank announces completion of Leinster Square residential real estate development in London

– Leinster Square residential real estate development is QFB’s second completed project in London in partnership with the Alchemi Group

Qatar First Bank L.L.C. (QFB), a leading Shari’ah compliant bank based in Qatar and listed on the Qatar Stock Exchange, announces the completion of 7-12 Leinster Square, a residential real estate development in Leinster Square – London W2. The announcement was at the QFB & JLL seminar titled “London Real Estate Forecast”. The seminar was hosted at QFB’s private banking lounge in collaboration with the British Embassy in Qatar. It was attended by QFB corporate and private banking clients, alongside other institutional invitees interested in the London real estate.

Leinster Square is QFB’s second completed real estate development in London. The project offers QFB shareholders and clients an opportunity to invest in five stunning three and four bedroom Townhouses and six lateral three bedroom apartments.

QFB acquired the building, in 7-12 Leinster Square, in August 2012, when it was a neglected, derelict hotel. Over the last four years, QFB has worked with the development manager, London-based Alchemi Group, to rebuild and restore the building to its former Victorian glory. The building benefits from southerly views and access to a private garden square, very rare in central London.

Nizar Ahmadi, QFB’s Head of Private Banking & Wealth Management, said:

“The completion of our second residential real estate project in London complements the development of QFB’s pioneer open architecture platform. The platform is backed by our talented and highly experienced team who are well-equipped to meet the individual needs of our clients with high levels of confidentiality, professionalism and responsibility.”

Ahmadi added: “QFB’s private banking team, including our dedicated world class female relationship managers, and real estate partners, JLL, are available to provide information about London residential market and market forecasts for the next five years with highlights on the important factors influencing the market.”

Scott Strachan, Executive Director – Alternative Investments at QFB in charge of real estate projects, said:

Leinster Square is a unique project in a great location in central London. It is very rare to find new developments like this, that offer modern facilities like air conditioning and underfloor heating in a Victorian building. The development is minutes away from Hyde Park and has excellent transport links, to both the Underground and Paddington station, which provides access to Heathrow and Crossrail. The development also benefits from 24/7 concierge services and all the homes have at least three bedrooms, which make them suitable for Qatari families.”

Reflecting the demand for these investments, the project only has two apartments left for investment on the top, fourth floor, of the building and 5 townhouses. The townhouses consist of accommodation on the first floor of the building, the ground floor, lower ground floor, and basement, and all have private terraces at the rear of the building as well as their own entrance and access to the private garden square, which has also been restored and replanted with lawns, flowerbeds and recreation areas.

Strachan added: Leinster Square is QFB’s second completed project in London, following the completion of the award winning “Westbourne House” completed in August 2015. Located in nearby Westbourne Grove, the residential real estate development consists of 20 luxury apartments ranging from one to three bedrooms, and an amazing duplex penthouse with unimpeded 360 degree views.”

Created in collaboration with the award-winning architectural firm Stiff + Trevillion, and also developed by the Alchemi Group, “Westbourne House” project has only two, two bedroom, apartments remaining for investment.

QFB, earlier this month, announced the signing of an agreement with JLL, in order to offer shareholders and clients the ability to source real estate opportunities based on their specific requirements and budget. Partnering with JLL, QFB, in line with the increased appetite for real estate investments in London and globally, shareholders, as well as private, corporate and institutional clients, have now the platform to identify real estate investment opportunities through more than 280 corporate offices with operations across 80 countries.

Qatar First Bank signs an agreement with UK’s largest property adviser, JLL

– QFB expects to see increasing demand for real estate investment in the UK and Europe from Qatari and GCC investors.

Qatar First Bank L.L.C. (QFB), a leading Shari’ah compliant bank based in Qatar offering investment opportunities and innovative financial solutions with local, regional and international reach, announced the signing of an agreement with JLL, in order to offer shareholders and clients the ability to source real estate opportunities based on their specific requirements and budget.

Signed at QFB’s Private Banking Lounge in Doha, the agreement provides specialised real estate services to individuals and corporates seeking to add value to their portfolios by owning, occupying and investing in real estate across the world.

Nizar Ahmadi, QFB’s Head of Private Banking & Wealth Management, said:

“QFB, which has recently had a successful listing of its shares on the Qatar Stock Exchange, is continuing to execute on its strategy of shifting from being investment focused to investor focused.”

Ahmadi added: “By partnering with JLL, and in line with the increased appetite for real estate investments globally, our shareholders, as well as private, corporate and institutional clients have now the opportunity to benefit from JLL’s real estate expertise through more than 280 corporate offices that have operations across 80 countries.”

“This is another milestone for the bank, and we will continue to invest in our Sharia’h compliant services and products. These, span across our business lines including corporate & institutional banking, private banking & wealth management, treasury & investments, as well as private equity and real estate.” Ahmadi concluded.

Scott Strachan, Executive Director – Alternative Investments at QFB, said:

“This agreement is in line with our strategy to position QFB as a trusted advisor and gateway for investors who wish to tap into innovative, Shari’ah-compliant, financial solutions and investment opportunities in local, regional and global markets. We are at the beginning of a new era and partnering with JLL is part of our efforts to identify and seize new attractive opportunities, deliver excellence and robust returns for our clients, and build a strong brand.”

“JLL have access to one of the broadest catalogues of real estate opportunities as well having extensive research capabilities to support it.” Strachan concluded.

Will McKintosh, JLL’s Director and Joint-Head of Residential for MENA, said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for both Parties. Since the very beginning we have always found the team at QFB to be extremely professional and proactive in dealing with their clients and our mutual client’s needs. The result will be a more cohesive and wider range of services for all our clients and a mutual benefit to both QFB and JLL.”

QFB previously announced the development of a pioneering open architecture private banking platform, backed by an exceptional international network of partners, which offers shareholders and clients a wide range of financial solutions to grow, manage and protect their wealth and assets. The platform is supported by an experienced team of bankers, with a dedicated team of world class female relationship managers, available to ensure that client needs are properly addressed in total professionalism, comfort and discretion.

Interview: Qatar First Bank finds upside to oil cycles

Exclusive Interview with QFB CEO Ziad Makkawi by Philippa Wilkinson for Meed.com

  • Qatar First Bank pleased with results of listing on Qatar Stock Exchange in April
  • Investment bank focuses on diversifying revenue streams, though investment in the healthcare sector, and private banking arm

Qatar First Bank (QFB) has swum against the tide of GCC economies since it was founded in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis and at the bottom of an oil price cycle.

It listed on the Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) on 27 April this year, at another low point for oil prices. While this depressed the valuation of the Shari’ah compliant investment bank, the listing was generally successful.

We are pleased with the outcome,” says Ziad Makkawi, CEO of the bank since mid2015. “It was the first listing of a private company in six years and we didn’t know how the market would react, but it reacted very positively.”

The shares were listed at QR15 ($4) each, giving QFB a market capitalisation of almost QR2.5bn. The shares traded at around QR14 in the following days, while trading volumes on 27 April surpassed 14 million shares, despite the generally low liquidity on the QSE.

The listing was primarily to allow the 1,600 founding shareholders a mechanism for trading. Some will have increased their stakes as others exited, and new shareholders are expected to invest as well.

“At inception there was a promise to the shareholders that there would be a listing, but for various reasons which predate me, this didn’t happen,” says Makkawi. “This comes on the heels of a renewed willingness by the authorities to reactivate the stock market and give more visibility to the private sector.”

Riding out slowing growth

The recent poor performance of the Qatari indices, one reason for the lack of listings, is not just related to oil prices. Global equity markets have been volatile in 2016 as the global macroeconomic mood darkens. This is exacerbated by regional geopolitical tensions in the GCC, as well as poorly diversified economies.

But QFB believes it is well positioned to manage the difficult period.

“Qatar, of all the countries in the GCC, is the most resilient,” says Makkawi. “Its size, the size of its reserves, its GDP per capita mean it is well-equipped to withstand even prolonged shocks to the system. It has an inherent growth story as Qatar is still in the process of building infrastructure.”

Preparations for the FIFA World Cup in 2022 are expected to drive spending and growth for several years.

QFB is also looking with interest at Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, and has plans to expand in the kingdom.

But it is the private equity arm of the bank that can take advantage of lower oil prices to make key investments, focused in defensive sectors such as healthcare.

Private equity

QFB has primarily invested in the GCC and Turkey, in sectors as diverse as retail, food & beverage, construction, real estate, logistics and manufacturing. But the current focus, as for many private equity firms, is on health.

Through its investments in the UAE’s Cambridge Medical and Healthcare MENA, QFB has built up management skills in the sector, and is ready for more acquisitions.

“We see the sector as defensive,” explains Makkawi. “The healthcare sector in the GCC and the Middle East more broadly is behind in terms of spend per capita, but we see the trends evolving in that direction.”

The low oil price environment is a good backdrop for making private equity investments. QFB has two transactions it hopes to close in 2016.

“It’s easier to find good investments now than when the markets are on fire and everything is going up and the expectations from sellers, in terms of the entry point for private equity, are more difficult,” says Makkawi. “Then you have to pay up and you have a lot of competition.”

But Makkawi expects some recovery in oil prices.

“It’s cyclical, I have seen oil prices yoyo in the last 30 years,” he says. “The price has recovered a little and it will stabilize over the next 12 months, putting a new base from which these economies can grow.”

QFB is changing its private equity strategy, and beginning to bring in other investors with their own management teams.

“When we have a deal, instead of taking the whole deal, we invest up to 25 per cent and bring in co-investors,” says Makkawi. “We are moving away from our revenue stream being totally linked to the performance of specific assets.”

Often, the co-investors are clients of QFB’s high net worth individual (HNWI), corporate and institutional banking services. Both the bank and its clients are diversifying investments by sector and region to reduce risks in a difficult environment.

Shari’ah compliant banking continues growth

While Islamic finance used to be a niche, QFB is one of the institutions closing the gap on conventional finance.

“There is very little you cannot do from a Shari’ah point of view if it structured properly, according to the principles,” says Makkawi. “We see it not as an impediment but as an advantage. The demand for Shari’ah products is increasing substantially in the region and it remains the fastest growing segment in financial services.”

Islamic investors no longer have to accept lower returns and quality as multinational institutions and governments tap this pool of alternative liquidity.

Makkawi also believes that ethical banking will grow in response to popular distrust of financialisation, overleveraging and derivatives.

A key driver of progress will be around unifying and homogenising Shari’ah boards and their rulings. Progress on standardisation has been slow so far.

“Homogenisation would be the biggest positive development,” says Makkawi. “There is now a Shari’ah boards forum in the UAE, where the boards of various banks sit down and discuss the issues.”

Qatar First Bank develops an innovative open architecture Private Banking platform

– One-of-a-kind open architecture platform with an exceptional international network of partners

Qatar First Bank L.L.C. (QFB), a leading Shari’ah compliant bank based in Qatar and listed on the QSE, develops a pioneering open architecture private banking platform supported by an exceptional international network of partners. The platform offers shareholders and clients the opportunity to select from a wide range of investment opportunities and innovative financial solutions to grow, manage and protect their wealth and assets.

QFB’s Private Banking & Wealth Management business line is uniquely positioned to exclusively cater to the banking needs of its elite clients and their businesses, while offering access to investment opportunities and innovative solutions.

Leveraging the in-house and international breadth of investment solutions across asset classes, QFB Private Banking team opts for a client centric approach whereby the investment advice is personalized to the financial goals and risk profile of the client. Bespoke Shari’ah compliant solutions are tailored to the functional needs and wants of clients enabling them to both create and preserve wealth.

Commenting on this development, QFB’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Ziad Makkawi, said:

“QFB is transforming from being an investment focused to an investor focused entity. This is being reflected in the continued development of our Shari’ah compliant offering across all business lines. We are aware that there is still a great deal of work to be done, and we are investing to achieve our goals.”

“We believe that the listing on the QSE is the beginning of a new era, and our innovative open architecture Private Banking platform complements our ambition to strengthen our position as a major player in the Shari’ah compliant banking arena.” Makkawi added.

Nizar Ahmadi, QFB’s Head of Private Banking & Wealth Management, said:

“We are proud to develop a pioneering open architecture platform and make it available exclusively to our private banking clients. The platform is backed by our talented and highly experienced team, well-equipped to meet the individual needs of our clients.”

Ahmadi added: “Our products and services offered are complemented with a private banking lounge located in our main headquarters on Suhaim bin Hamad Street. The lounge redefines the luxury hospitality experience and combines tradition with modernity. Our team of bankers offers clients high levels of confidentiality, professionalism and responsibility in a comfortable and lavish environment.”

“QFB has a dedicated private banking section for ladies served by world class female relationship managers available to ensure client needs are properly addressed in total comfort and discretion.” Ahmadi concluded.

QFB’s Private Banking & Wealth Management business line is supported by a best in class network of international partners located in major international financial countries, namely London and Zurich. These partnerships allow for great flexibility and reach to our clients.

The private banking and wealth management Shari’ah compliant products include financing, private banking services, innovative investment solutions, as well as family office services covering trusts, foundations, advisory, real estate planning, and statement consolidation.

“the global economic conditions remain challenging and complex during 2016; we will continue to expand our Shari’ah compliant financial solutions, develop and launch new initiatives, and most importantly explore and evaluate investment opportunities. This means our clients will continue to need a trusted advisor to guide them in the management of their wealth. We are positioned to be this trusted advisor.” Makkawi concluded.

Qatar First Bank praises Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision and sets the ground for a presence in the Kingdom

QFB welcomed the Saudi Arabia 2030 vision announced by Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman AlSaud

Qatar First Bank L.L.C. (QFB), a leading Shari’ah-compliant bank based in Qatar offering investment opportunities and innovative financial solutions with local, regional and international reach, welcomed the Saudi Arabia 2030 vision announced by Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman AlSaud, who revealed an ambitious plan that includes extensive reforms, designed to transform the Kingdom into a global investment power house aiming to end the Kingdom’s reliance on oil as a major driver of the economy.

Abdulla Bin Fahad Bin Ghorab AlMarri, Chairman of QFB noted that Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision, under the guidance of King Salman bin Abdulaziz AlSaud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and the blessing of Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz AlSaud, the Crown Prince, First Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior of Saudi Arabia, is considered the roadmap to the Kingdom’s development over the next 15 years. This new and bold strategy will enable the country to achieve a quantum leap in its successful journey on both economic and developmental levels. The plan will promote foreign investments from the GCC, neighboring, and global players to enter the Saudi market.

Commenting on the side of the listing of QFB’s shares on the Qatar Stock Exchange, AlMarri said:“The 2030 vision seeks to build a prosperous economy and a dynamic society and establish an ambitious nation that explores the great human and financial potential of the Kingdom. What was announced by Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, incentivized whoever shares this aspiring vision”. AlMarri added:“QFB sits at the forefront of these ambitious drives, and we will accelerate the execution of our business plans in the kingdom with the aim to meet the aspirations of our shareholders and clients in Saudi Arabia.”

Al Marri also expressed the bank’s willingness to explore a presence in Saudi Arabia in light of the new Vision in order to provide innovative financial solutions and investment opportunities to shareholders and clients.

Reaping the benefits of the Bank’s strategy launched in 2015, QFB successfully listed all its shares on the QSE on April27, 2016, following its 7-year operational journey. QFB’s listing represents another milestone in the Bank’s quest to grow, expand its offerings and provide a ‘Signature of Excellence’ to its clients. With a clear strategy, highly experienced team, and solid shareholder base in the GCC region, QFB strives to maintain its role as a trusted advisor for high-net-worth individuals, corporate and institutional clients and a gateway to business opportunities in Qatar, the region and global markets.

Despite the challenging global and regional economic conditions, QFB has an attractive pipeline of deals to be completed this year. The bank’s team will continue focusing on identifying and seizing new attractive opportunities, deliver excellence for both private and corporate clients, build a strong brand, and provide shareholders with robust returns.