Any potential recession will be ‘light,’ Qatar Investment Authority CEO says 

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The CEO of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund believes that if the world sees a recession, it will be “light.”

Rising fears of a looming recession pushed U.S. stocks briefly into a bear market on Friday, as Covid-19 related shutdowns in China, rising interest rates and a cost of living crisis impact investor sentiment. 

“The sell-off that we see (is) embedded in all of the bad scenarios that we are talking about. So we’re talking about recession, inflation and geopolitical issues,” Qatar Investment Authority CEO Mansoor Al Mahmoud told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at Davos.

The QIA, which manages $450 billion in assets, is ranked as the world’s ninth-largest sovereign wealth fund, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.

Al Mahmoud said that he is “less pessimistic” despite the global economy’s current situation as it recovers from the pandemic. “We are in better shape in terms of the banking sector that has a good balance sheet, we have good liquidity,” the CEO added. “I’m not saying that we will not have a slowdown, I’m not saying that we might not have a recession, but if we have a recession, it will be a light recession.” 

Qatar aiding Europe’s energy transition

As Germany seeks to wean itself off Russian energy, Chancellor Olaf Scholz hailed Doha’s important role in Berlin’s transition, agreeing to an “energy partnership” after the Qatari emir’s visit. Qatar is aiming to start LNG deliveries by 2024.   

The QIA chief told CNBC: “We cannot stop investing in Europe, we will help them toward the transition of energy. Of course, during this year, they might have difficulties, because the (energy) price is not helping the growth of Europe.”

He also hailed Germany’s push for renewable sources of energy, saying “they are very advanced (in) their transition.”   

Despite QIA’s commitment to Europe, the fund isn’t sure if investments will see any immediate return with the current energy crisis weighing on growth. “I (am) really bullish about Europe in about three to five years,” Al Mahmoud said.

A post-pandemic strategy 

The QIA, once focused on trophy assets like property, including stakes in the London Stock Exchange and Grosvenor House Hotel, has shifted its focus post-pandemic and is investing more in technology.

A subsidiary of the QIA is contributing $375 million to Elon Musk’s buyout of Twitter, according to official documents published on May 5. The takeover is currently on hold. QIA’s chief couldn’t comment on the Twitter deal, but hailed Musk’s leadership. 

The fund also has significant tie-ups with Moscow. The QIA is reported to have $9 billion worth of assets in Russia with stakes in St. Petersburg’s airport and Russian energy giant Rosneft.

Al Mahmoud told CNBC that the fund is not “divesting,” adding that the QIA are in “full compliance with international sanctions” and that “we have a smaller exposure in Russia compared to the overall portfolio that we have.” The fund, Al Mahmoud said, has no plans to deploy more investment into Russia.

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