PROSPECTS FOR PAK-QATAR COOPERATION IN INSURANCE, ENERGY & TELECOM

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Mar 22 - 28, 2010

Pakistan and Qatar are the Muslim brother countries and both enjoy good relationship. There is a huge scope and wider prospects for enhancement of cooperation between the two countries in various economic sectors including insurance, oil and gas and telecom.

INSURANCE

Sponsored by leading financial institutions in Qatar, Pak-Qatar Takaful Group has a wide geographic reach in the country. It is rapidly growing in its corporate and individual customer base. Last year, Pak-Qatar Takaful Group signed an MoU with SAP Pakistan for the implementation of SAP modules in its Pakistan operations. With this agreement Pak-Qatar Takaful became the first company in the insurance sector and the second in the whole of financial services industry in Pakistan to implement SAP. The Group also invested in the procurement of state-of-the-art PentaTakaful systems from Malaysia in 2008.

With a global turnover of over $12 billion, SAP is the world's leading provider of ERP solutions. Over 38,000 companies in more than 120 countries currently run SAP applications with more than 12 million users, from distinct solutions addressing the needs of small businesses and midsize companies to suite offerings for global organizations. SAP currently employs more than 51,400 people in more than 50 countries across the world. It is very encouraging for SAP that financial services companies like Pak-Qatar Takaful has realized the value that SAP has to offer to the financial industry in Pakistan.

TELECOM

The two countries have enormous scope for cooperation in telecom sector. During the former government of prime minister Shaukat Aziz, Qatar Telecom (Q-tel) was eying investment opportunities in Pakistan's telecom market already has the footmarks of strategic investors such as Orascom, Etisalat, Telenor, Abu Dhabi Group's Warid Telecom and Nortel Networks, the Canadian telecommunications equipment manufacturer. In 2007, the Q-tel entered into a US$30 million deal with Burraq Telecom, a local company with nationwide and intentional telephony networks, to acquire its 70 per cent stake with management control. The deal was considered the Qtel's first foray into Pakistan. Having an international presence particularly in the Middle East, Qtel is the exclusive telecom provider in Qatar. Its principal activities include local and international fixed telephone, mobile, internet, data, and cable television services. In 2004, Qtel led a consortium and won the public tender for the second mobile license in Oman, and launched its Nawras subsidiary services in March 2005, capturing more than 500,000 new customers in just over 20 months of operations.

In the year 2006, the Qtel achieved revenues of Qatari Ryal 4.42 billion, showing an increase of 48.2 per cent over the corresponding period of 2005. The company also grew its combined mobile customer base in Qatar and Oman to 1.49 million, which is an increase of 55.3 per cent over the customer base of 2005. In March 2007, it acquired 51 per cent of the share capital of Kuwait-based National Mobile Telecommunications Company from Kuwait Projects Company for a total cash consideration of $3.8 billion. The deal is described as the biggest-ever telecom deal in the Arab world.

Qtel and Burraq had been engaged in talks for long. Burraq Telecom has already the licenses of nationwide and international telephony service operation it acquired from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

The company was looking for potential local and international investors to roll out its services across the country but this failed to come to fruition. The company management later decided to offload their shares to foreign investors and finally struck a deal with the Qtel. Burraq Telecom Limited is a public limited company sponsored by three telecom firms, namely Comcept Private Limited, TeleCall Payphones Private Limited and Stancom Private Limited. It acquired LDI (long distance and international) and WLL (wireless local loop) licenses in 2004.

Q-tel is poised to launch a new Mobile Socialising Networking service Plus News Pakistan reports. The new service will enable customers to collect all their customer accounts contacts and details for a full range of microblogging, blogging and social media services onto one platform, which can be accessed via their mobile phone or the internet. The service is expected to bring together popular social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook without having to switch sites.

OIL & GAS

Pakistan's energy scene is marked by rising fuel demand and growing supply shortfall. There has been a doubling of gap between demand and supply of oil during the past decades. The country needs more natural gas to feed new power plants to meet a potential energy shortfall, which is expected to increase to 5,000 MW next year.

Qatar holds almost 15 percent of total world natural gas reserves and is the third-largest in the world after Russia and Iran. Qatar's proven natural gas reserves stood at approximately 890 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) as of January 1, 2009, according to Oil & Gas Journal. The North Field is a geologic extension of Iran's South Pars field, which holds an additional 450 Tcf of recoverable natural gas reserves. Qatar Petroleum (QP) plays a dominant role in Qatar's natural gas sector, leading upstream production and playing an important role in downstream projects. Qatar's focus on natural gas development tends to be large-scale projects linked to LNG exports or the promotion of downstream industries that utilize natural gas as feedstock.

Therefore, foreign company involvement has favored international oil companies with the technology and experience in integrated mega-projects, including ExxonMobil, Shell, and Total.

In 2008, Qatar produced approximately 2.7 Tcf of natural gas, or more than five times the amount produced in 1995. The expected increase in natural gas production will fuel the growing natural gas requirements of domestic industry, LNG export commitments, piped natural gas exports through the Dolphin pipeline, and several large-scale gas-to-liquids (GTL) projects.

Qatar currently exports about 2 Bcf/d of natural gas to the UAE through the Dolphin pipeline. During 2008, Qatar exported over 2 Tcf of natural gas, about 70 percent of which was liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Under former government, an official delegation from Islamabad visited Qatar and held discussions on the Qatar-Pakistan gas pipeline project. Pakistan can also discuss with Qatar the possibility of importing liquefied natural gas during the interim period as the pipeline options from Iran and Turkmenistan would take four to seven years to materialize.

Inter State Gas Pipeline Project (ISGP) and Sui Northern Gas Pipeline (SNGPL) prepared comparative study of the three options, and handling the gas import project from Iran, Tukmenistan and Qatar. Under previous regime, a committee headed by the representative of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) undertook a study comparing the tariff, cost and other auxiliaries of the three projects. Sui Southern Gas Company calculated the cost of Qatar gas pipeline project as $3.3 billion with length of pipeline of 2409 km from Qatar.