Three financial sources told Reuters that Qatar plans to invest at least $10 billion in US ports and has approached international banks for help with financing, amid a flurry of US infrastructure investments.
Middle Eastern and Western sources familiar with the matter said that Doha is targeting investments in ports on the east coast of the United States, which are expected to be developed in stages, adding that the plan is in an initial stage.
The country’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority and Qatar’s government communication office all declined to comment.
“The Qataris have been preparing for about a year to get a feel for US port investments,” said Michael Frodel, a US-based consultant for projects including maritime security, trade and infrastructure.
“We think that with the $10 billion that the Qataris want to put into US port infrastructure, we think any savvy investor is likely to look at the underserved East Coast first and foremost,” added Frodel, who is familiar with Qatar’s strategy.
“The West Coast is getting all the attention of the US government and private investment, while the East Coast has been waiting a long time for improvements,” he said.
Frodel also said that ports that are easily accessible through highways and railroads will take priority.
“We’ll look at the old medium-sized ports south of Boston and north of Jacksonville,” he added.
A Middle East-based source said the investments would be backed by debt that would be linked to the port’s assets. He added that Qatar is in early discussions with banks to search for a restructuring advisor.
Two sources said that the banks contacted include Morgan Stanley, HSBC and Credit Suisse. The three banks declined to comment.
According to the US Coast Guard, there are about 360 ports in the United States.
The Middle East-based source said Qatar may look to target three port projects.
A fourth financial source separately confirmed Qatar’s investment plans in the United States.
Qatar currently has minimal holdings in foreign ports. But Qatar’s state-run port operator, QTerminals, last year bought the Turkish port of Akdeniz, and entered into an agreement to develop the Black Sea port of Olivia in Ukraine.