ASIA NEWS: Give and take

For some investors, it is enough for their fund managers to simply pay them more attention through increased visits or telephone calls. For others, like those in Qatar, they want to see investment on their own doorstep if they are to part with capital for overseas exploits.

According to Pacific Star, the Singapore-based private equity real estate firm led by president Jeffrey Tay, the group is being asked by Qatari investors what it can offer the country as it seeks to set up a Doha office.

Qatar has offered us an opportunity, a helping hand to open an office and has invited us to do business, so we will try to bring investors into Qatar.

Dr Knut Riesmeier

Dr Knut Riesmeier, president of the firm’s newly formed Pacific Star Doha, spoke with PERE days after the firm said it had been granted a licence to offer advisory services by the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority (QFCRA), the country’s government body charged with attracting overseas business and investment. The licence, he said, comes alongside the signing of a lease for a new office in the capital.

Riesmeier said the foremost reason for seeking the licence – a process which involved Qatari officials flying to Singapore, conducting numerous interviews with Pacific Star executives and scouring its various processes and compliances – was to give the firm a better footing among potential investors to raise capital for its investment funds.

But Riesmeier admitted the firm has been questioned on what it would offer Qatar in return. Accepting a trade of sorts may be necessary, he said, adding: “Qatar has offered us an opportunity, a helping hand to open an office and has invited us to do business, so we will try to bring investors into Qatar.”

Pacific Star is traditionally a pan-Asia investor with $5 billion of investments in Asian cities since its inception in 2001 and currently managing approximately $4 billion of assets.

The firm has yet to invest in Qatar but Riesmeier predicts the firm could invest in real estate-related infrastructure, such as hotels and healthcare properties. In order to invest in Qatar, which Riesmeier dubbed “fast-moving”, the firm “has to be there”, he said.

Pacific Star’s courtship of Qatari investors is expected to exponentially grow. Riesmeier, who will move to the country from October with a skeleton staff of four, aims to increase that headcount to between 20 to 25 people within two years.

But its growth plans come at a time when the one major Qatari investor with whom it has worked before, the Qatari Investment Authority, is halting all investments into blind pool real estate investing vehicles. Riesmeier said: “That is true but we will offer them other investment opportunities, such as separate accounts.”

Pacific Star is in the process of raising its two latest efforts: the special situations- focused Enterprise Fund and the open-ended Asia Fund Select. The former aims to close on $500 million and the latter has an initial target of €2 billion.