As a result of the World Cup, many Germans have become aware of how much influence Qatar has in German companies. This should still grow.

While the Chinese participation in the port of Hamburg recently triggered weeks of debate in Germany, Qatar has been buying into large German companies for years without the public being interested. The reason why even experts are not sounding the alarm about Qatar’s influence is that the emirate has different goals than China. Experts say it thinks long-term and cooperatively. It’s about security and a lot of money.

If you want to understand Qatar’s goals, you have to understand where the emirate’s billions come from: Qatar has earned trillions from oil and gas exports and now wants to invest its money wisely. The country invests part in huge construction projects, part flows into the state fund Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and its subsidiaries. With 445 billion dollars managed almost as much money as the Federal Republic of Germany spends in one year: Your budget last year was around 560 billion dollars.

The state fund invests its billions worldwide – partly in prestige projects such as the well-known US jeweler Tiffany and the French professional soccer team Paris St-Germain, partly in large and well-known companies.

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With some of these investments, Qatar has secured significant shares in German companies: when the sports car manufacturer Porsche went public this year, the emirate was one of the largest investors. The emirate has long been invested in Porsche parent company VW. The state fund QIA entered the energy group RWE in October with almost 2.5 billion. The Qatari state fund also holds shares in the Hapag-Lloyd shipping company, Deutsche Bank and Siemens.

At first glance, the Qatari holdings in German companies seem small: nine percent in RWE, eleven percent in VW, five percent in Porsche. However, a look at the shareholder structure of the companies shows how large Qatar’s holdings really are.

The state fund of Qatar, for example, holds almost as many shares in Volkswagen as the state of Lower Saxony and is the third largest single shareholder after Porsche Automobil Holding and Lower Saxony. The remaining VW shares are distributed among institutional investors in Germany and abroad, i.e. primarily banks and funds, as well as private investors. Since these vote inconsistently on decisions, Qatar, with its eleven percent stake, has a say in VW.

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The other companies are similar: At RWE, Qatar will soon become the largest investor with a share of around nine percent if its 2.5 billion investment is converted into a stake. At Hapag-Lloyd it is the fourth largest shareholder. Because the shares in a public limited company are distributed among many people, the emirate, with its holdings in several large German companies, is one of the most important decision-makers.

According to experts, no one needs to worry that Qatar could abuse its power in Germany. Qatar expert Mathias Brüggmann told FOCUS online in an interview that, in contrast to China, which often wants to expand its power with its investments, the emirate is pursuing two other goals:

According to Brüggmann, this starting position makes Qatar a reliable long-term investor for German companies that does not interfere too much in management: “I think many major German shareholders are satisfied with Qatar as an investor, especially much more satisfied than with hedge funds.”

There are some indications that Qatar’s influence in German companies is likely to grow rather than shrink in the future. The country will continue to earn well from its oil and gas reserves for some time to come. Some of these billions will probably continue to flow into the Federal Republic: “Germany is considered a stable market in Qatar and promises security,” says Dawud Ansari, who researches the economic policy of the Gulf States at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin, the Spiegel. Germany is the best place in Europe to invest oil revenues securely in the long term.

The example of RWE shows that the Federal Republic of Germany also benefits from this: the Essen-based energy group bought the company Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses, one of the largest producers of solar and wind energy in the USA, with the money from the emirate. As a result, it is turning into a producer of renewable energies faster than previously planned.

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