Open country: New investment potential in QatarMarch 27, 2015
Dyarco International general manager Ullatil Achu talks to TOGY about the Qatari industry’s competitive advantages and the opportunities it offers to both newcomers and existing actors. Achu also describes how Qatar’s burgeoning LNG and petrochemicals sectors serve as insulation from difficult economic conditions. In 2015, Dyarco International wants to take shares in a large drilling operator in Qatar, a process that should be completed by the end of 2015.
What factors make Qatar an attractive investment opportunity despite the global downturn in hydrocarbons prices?
Qatar’s energy market still holds numerous opportunities for both new entrants and already-established players. Compared to others in the Gulf, Qatar’s energy market is relatively new and is still undergoing development. The energy industry across much of the Gulf has already reached or is reaching a plateau.
As a result of time-consuming global and domestic analysis by decision makers, actions related to Qatar’s hydrocarbons industry are slow to materialise. The gradual nature of industry development has left the country open to a great deal of opportunity, while other markets are near saturation.
How is reliance on natural gas production helping Qatar to weather the fall in oil prices?
Qatar has a great deal of room to manoeuvre because of the country’s gas resources. Among OPEC members, oil production targets are group decisions. States do not unilaterally decide to drop or raise their production. Conversely, gas producers operate in a different context, since organisations like the Gas Exporting Countries Forum and the International Gas Union are just forums and do not set guidelines for participating states.
In the natural gas sector, there is communication between players, but there are no directives. Players in this sector are competitors rather than partners. Qatar sits on the third-largest natural gas reserves in the world, and the country’s LNG production insulates it from lower oil prices in addition to allowing the country freedom to implement its own strategies. When other commodity prices fall, Qatar can rely on LNG and gas-to-liquids production.
How do you see Qatar’s petrochemicals and downstream sectors progressing in the future?
In addition to its LNG sector, Qatar has ongoing downstream and petrochemicals developments. Petrochemicals will present significant opportunities, even after the Al Sejeel and Al Karaana projects were shelved, as Qatar Petroleum initiated studies to maximise utilisation of available ethane feedstock. These commodities will become cheaper to produce efficiently while growing research budgets will improve the products’ quality and environmental friendliness.
As Qatar’s market expands, the domestic need for technology-rich developments will increase. For example, the domestic market needs high-density polyethylene, which is necessary for manufacturing pipelines. These products are imported from other Gulf players, but in-country manufacturing would generate numerous business opportunities across the sector. This is one example of the potential represented by Qatar’s petrochemicals industry.
What can Qatar do to consolidate this position and what role do foreign companies have to play in this strategy?
Qatar cannot seize every available opportunity. The country must identify the needs of both the global and the domestic market to determine what consumers of hydrocarbons and petroleum products need and can consume. This will allow the country to make informed decisions about which opportunities to pursue.
Qatar is still a developing country and the direction of its energy industry is influenced by the needs of the international oil companies operating in the country. If operators already produce specific products in other regional countries, they may not be willing to produce them in Qatar. International players bring knowledge, technology and marketing capacity.
In order to compete, Qatar must be willing to become a global player itself. The country has great potential and enormous ambition. In order to realise its goals, Qatar needs to develop a solid knowledge bank. Several companies – one example being ExxonMobil – have helped develop educational, research and development structures. Now is a good time to set both ambitious and realistic objectives for the country’s energy industry.
What can local partners bring to international companies looking to enter or strengthen their presence in Qatar’s energy market?
Partnerships can make a big difference for both local and international companies seeking business opportunities. Local entities can provide international partners with administrative and technical support, in addition to an intimate knowledge of the market.
Companies involved in the energy industry must employ dedicated, efficient teams of experts capable of accelerating procedures and identifying interesting opportunities. These partnerships do not disappear once the company is established and registered in the market. Continued support will be needed to develop long-term relationships with customers and progress with expansion.
ABOUT THE COMPANY: Founded in 1992, Dyarco International provides consulting, manufacturing and trading services in sectors such as petrochemicals, hydrocarbons, mechanical engineering and marine offshore. The company partners with firms looking to enter or to strengthen their presence in the local oil, gas and industrial markets.