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Sustained sell-off makes Qatari stocks more attractive

People celebrate after Eid al-Adha morning prayers inside Education City Stadium, Doha. The completion of infrastructure projects leading up to the 2022 World Cup meant there were few opportunities and catalysts left for the market IMAGO/Naushad via Reuters Connect
People celebrate after Eid al-Adha morning prayers inside Education City Stadium, Doha. The completion of infrastructure projects leading up to the 2022 World Cup meant there were few opportunities and catalysts left for the market
  • Bourse slump followed World Cup
  • Gas price fall dents confidence
  • Economic outlook remains bullish

Qatari stocks are among the Gulf’s most attractively priced, according to core metrics, after a sustained slump on Doha’s bourse.

The decline – the Qatari index is down about 27 percent from its late 2021 peak – comes after a momentous rally that propelled the index to a seven-year high when investors bet on a corporate earnings windfall from the country’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

“The completion of large-scale infrastructure projects leading up to [the tournament] meant there were few opportunities and catalysts left for the market after that,” said Shakeel Sarwar, head of asset management at Bahrain’s SICO investment bank.

Raghu Mandagolathur, CEO of Kuwait’s Marmore Mena Intelligence, said a steep drop in the price of gas, Qatar’s chief source of earnings, had dented investor confidence, along with regional geopolitical uncertainties.

The state-owned QatarEnergy made a net profit of QAR101.9 billion ($28.0 billion) in 2023, down 31 percent versus 2022 as revenue from crude oil, natural gas and fertilisers all fell.

The reduced profit restricted government participation in the market, Mandagolathur said. Last year, 44.6 billion shares changed hands on Qatar’s bourse, down from 55.2 billion in 2021.

This year, domestic retail and institutional investors have been net buyers of Qatari stocks, while foreign investors are net sellers, he said.


Qatar’s bourse was trading at a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 12.2 as of June 25. Saudi Arabia’s is 21.3, Marmore estimates, while Abu Dhabi's stock exchange has a P/E ratio of 16.2, Dubai of 8.2 and Kuwait of 15.0.

Qatar’s bank and financial sector has a PE ratio of 9.3 down from 13.5 on October 1, 2022, the earliest available official bourse data.

About 20 percent of Qatari banks’ lending is to the real estate sector, which is a big source of loan defaults, Mandagolathur said. That has led to a deterioration in asset quality, he said, with shrinking margins because of Qatari banks’ operations in high-inflation countries such as Turkey and Egypt.

In terms of dividend yield, Qatari stocks have become more attractively priced for investors. The overall bourse dividend yield was 4.7 percent as of June 25, up from 3.5 percent on October 1, 2022.

That compares favourably with Saudi Arabia (3.3 percent), Abu Dhabi (2.1 percent) and Kuwait (3.7 percent) and, in the Gulf, is only below Dubai’s 6.0 percent, Marmore estimates.

Foreign ownership

After Qatar’s inclusion in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index in 2014, many state-controlled listed companies increased foreign ownership limits to 100 percent.

That helped raise Qatar’s MSCI index weighting to 0.9 percent from 0.6 percent, attracting sizeable inflows from passive funds that track the benchmark, despite the proportion of shares really available to foreign investors remaining unchanged.

For example, the number of shares of Qatar National Bank and Industries Qatar that can be owned by foreigners are double the companies’ respective free floats. Likewise, Qatar Islamic Bank, Commercial Bank of Qatar and Doha Bank each have foreign ownership limits above the number of free-float shares. All are partly government-owned.


Although Qatar’s bourse is downbeat, its economic outlook is bullish. The country will nearly double its liquefied natural gas capacity to 142 million tonnes a year in 2030. Such an increase would enable Qatar to overtake the United States and Australia and become the world’s top LNG exporter.

Sarwar said: “The impact on local listed companies is going to be limited in the short to medium term as local banks were not interested in project financing given extremely thin margins.”

In the longer term, the benefits to listed companies will depend on how the government spends the proceeds from increased gas exports, he said.

“Unlike the previous phase, much of the country has been developed and hence the spending needs are much less,” Sarwar said. If the money was invested internationally, "the impact will be limited to companies directly linked to the gas project, such as Nakilat and Qatar Navigation.”

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