DUBAI – With Qatar increasingly isolated from its Gulf neighbours in an escalating geopolitical crisis, the economic and financial implications are starting to emerge.
The country which has been accused of supporting Islamist militant groups by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt relies on other Gulf states for about 20% of its imports and almost half of its tourists, according to Dubai-based Arqaam Capital Ltd. Billions of dollars of infrastructure projects are also at stake as it prepares to host the 2022 soccer World Cup.
“We expect the move to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar could have significant economic ramifications for its economy, but to have barely an effect on the rest of the GCC,” said Arqaam’s head of equity research Jaap Meijer. “We expect consumer prices in Qatar to be affected first, though economic growth and government projects should also be affected.”
Here’s a look at how the crisis could impact companies in the region:
Foreign deposits especially from the six-nation GCC that have helped sustain institutions like Qatar National Bank QPSC and Commercial Bank QSC are at risk. Qatar’s domestic banking system relies heavily on foreign cash. Non-resident deposits made up 24% of deposits in the country’s 18 lenders in April, according to the central bank. That compares with 1.2% in Saudi Arabia and 12%in the UAE.
Potential Losers: QNB, the Middle East’s largest lender, traded last week at the cheapest valuation to global peers since 2013 based on price-to-estimated future earnings. “QNB is heavily reliant on foreign funding and is highly exposed to GCC and Egyptian markets,” said Aarthi Chandrasekaran, vice-president for research at Shuaa Capital PSC in Dubai. “We would refrain from Qatari banks in general, despite a sharp correction in recent times.”
The UAE’s biggest lenders, First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC and Emirates NBD PJSC, could “experience a slowdown in business coming from Qatar,” according to Mena Corp. “The impact could affect deposits and loans as Qatari based clients might withdraw cash to avoid uncertainties arising from governmental decisions on freezing accounts and so forth,” the Dubai-based brokerage said.
Energy and Utilities
Possible Winners: Qatar Electricity & Water could be “the one Qatar stock portfolio investors see as the safer position than others,” said Sanyalak Manibhandu, head of research at NBAD Securities LLC. Shares fell 9% last week.
The diplomatic dispute could give US natural gas exporters a stronger foothold in the global market. Tankers carrying liquefied natural gas from Qatar have been diverted after the blockade. Unlike many LNG cargoes, US supplies aren’t restricted by contract to specific destinations, making American exports a flexible source of the fuel. As tensions mount, US shippers could see higher demand for abundant supplies from America’s shale reservoirs.
Potential Loser: Abu Dhabi’s Dolphin Energy, which supplies the UAE and Oman with about two billion cubic feet of Qatari natural gas per day via a 364km undersea pipeline, is still operating despite diplomatic tensions. A potential shutdown of the pipeline would cause a “severe problem” in the UAE as demand for electricity peaks in the summer, according to Robin Mills, head of Dubai-based consultant Qamar Energy.
Possible Winner: Qatar is in talks with Iran, Turkey and other countries to secure food and water supplies. “The potential impact on foodmakers’ shares is dependent on the type of the food they may get,” said Toygun Onaran, head of research at Oyak Securities in Istanbul. “Banvit, Pinar Et Un and Pinar Sut are likely to benefit should it be dairy, poultry or meat.”
Potential Losers: Dubai-based Al Khaleej Sugar Co, the world’s largest port-based sugar refinery, is the UAE’s only sugar refinery, according to S&P Global Platts. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have stopped exporting white sugar to Qatar, ADM Investor Services International said in a report. India and European countries will be quick to meet Qatar’s sugar needs, according to Yves El Mallat, chief executive officer of Bahrain’s Arabian Sugar Co.
Riyadh-based dairy producer Almarai Co. relies on its Gulf neighbours for more than a quarter of its revenue, though the share from Qatar isn’t known. Shares fell the most in eight months on June 5 when the crisis started. The stock, which has since recovered slightly, will likely rebound faster than its peers because its business is well diversified regionally, said NBAD’s Manibhandu.
Ulker Biskuvi Sanayi AS, Turkey’s largest producer of confectionery and snacks, has an 11% share of Egypt’s biscuit business and an 18% share in Saudi Arabia. “The sentiment soured around Ulker with the rift in the Gulf as the company has operations and plans to expand,” said Behlul Katas, an analyst at Istanbul-based Deniz Invest. Shares declined 6.5% last week.
Possible Winners: Gulf Air and Singapore Airlines Ltd, which compete with Qatar Airways on its top routes, are the main carriers that stand to benefit. “If we also take into account the possible negative branding impact across all GCC carriers, then the real beneficiaries are Singapore Air, Lufthansa and the key local airlines from top routes such as Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Thai and Sri Lankan,” said Diogenis Papiomytis, director of aerospace at Frost & Sullivan. Other airlines on these routes such as Kuwait Airways, Saudia and Air France-KLM are also likely to see increased demand
Omani and Iranian ports could stand to benefit, according to Neil Davidson, senior analyst at Drewry Shipping Consultants Holdings Ltd. Existing container trade to Qatar mostly goes through the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia. The alternative could be operating feeder vessels from hub ports in countries that aren’t part of the boycott. Kuwaiti ports are also an option but would result in a big diversion.
Potential Loser: State-owned Qatar Airways is set to be one of the biggest losers of the crisis. It operates 52 daily flights to the four Arab countries, according to data from scheduling firm OAG. About 30% of the carrier’s revenue could be affected, said Frost & Sullivan’s Papiomytis. The network impact is huge; the financial impact depends on the length of closures, he said.
Construction and Real Estate
Potential Losers: Dubai-based contractor Drake & Scull International PJSC, which has shed more than 10% of its market value this year, has about 500 million dirhams (US$136 million) of projects in Qatar, according to Majd Dola, senior research analyst at Al Ramz Capital. It has a 343 million dirham contract to build the first phase of the Doha Metro, due to be completed by 2020, according to Mena Corp.
The UAE’s Arabtec Holding PJSC has two joint-venture projects in Qatar, pending legal cases and receivables, Dola said. “It’s very hard to quantify the direct impact on those companies, however it’s not going to be positive in the short-term,” he said. Shares are down 41% this year.
Developer Damac Properties Dubai Co. last month started construction of a 31-story luxury residential tower. It’s also developing two other high-rise buildings in the country. Still, just 0.5% of Damac’s revenue comes from outside the UAE, it said in its first-quarter earnings.
Media and Entertainment
Possible Winner: Qatari-owned phone carrier Ooredoo QSC earned only 6.6% of its revenue from GCC countries last year. Shares declined 6.1% last week, but fundamentals are not seen changing in the short run and the recent selloff could present a tactical buying opportunity, according to Arqaam Capital.
Potential Loser: Dubai-based theme park operator DXB Entertainment has Qatar Investment Authority as its second-biggest shareholder. The company “might face some further pressure if things as moved further in the negative direction,” said Al Ramz’s Dola. The company’s expansion plans, including those into Qatar, may also face challenges amid rising instability in the Middle East.