Qatari investors coming closer to major Sarawak deals


NEW REPORT: Chief Minister Taib (second right) is seen with State Secretary Datuk Amar Mohamad Morshidi Abdul Ghani (right), Feizal Ali (left) and Adel Mustafawi (second left) at the Inside Sarawak 2013 Launch.

Last Wednesday, Sarawak got another step closer to solidifying a working economic partnership that will promise to transform key developmental initiatives in the state.

During the Inside Sarawak 2013 launch, held by business research and consultancy group Inside Investor, a visiting delegation from Qatar met with Sarawak Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, coming eye-to eye-on terms to build a lasting relationship to intensify foreign investment from the Middle Eastern nation.

Among the Qatari investors, Masraf Al Rayan, a major syariah-compliant bank and institutional investor, expressed a willingness to heighten economic cooperation in the areas of power assets, heavy industries and halal food. Food security, an issue of utmost importance in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), was also brought up during the high-level meetings, with Qatari investors underscoring interest in starting halal food ventures.

At one of the business meetings held at the launch, Masraf Al Rayan group chief executive officer (CEO) Adel Mustafawi, who was joined by CEO Feizal Ali and senior manager Azaidi Bin Mohd Lazim, said to the State of Sarawak that shareholders from Saudi Arabia, where the financial institution has large operations, would also be “very interested in heavy industry investment.”

Qatar Chamber of Commerce director general Remy Rowhani also participated in high-level business meetings.

Attracting US$10.6 billion in foreign direct investment during 2012, the second most for a Malaysian state after Johor, Sarawak is well known for its investment opportunities, but further understanding of these visions.

“Foreign investors will come once they have better understanding about us,” Taib said during his keynote speech, pointing to Inside Investor’s investment report on the state as a useful tool to bridge the information asymmetry of the business world.

“As we embark on more development and create more investment opportunities, it is very important that such information be spread widely for foreign countries to understand and have confidence in us,” he added.

These opportunities were highlighted when Taib mentioned that the heavy industries already set up in Samalaju Industrial Park, a growth node of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy, have attracted RM4 billion in investments.

INSIDE SARAWAK: Chief Minister Taib is seen looking at the Inside Sarawak 2013 bunting during the launch of the report at Hilton Hotel, here. Also seen is Puan Sri Ragad Kurdi.

Tanjung Manis Halal Hub, a coastal developmental node, was also brought up, with Taib affirming that challenges that project has been met with.

Although no details have been released, it is anticipated that foreign investment will target one of the next two mega-dams Sarawak has in the pipeline. “By next year, Murum will start to produce electricity and after that we are going to plunge into the development of (either) Baram or Baleh,” Taib announced.

The completion of these two proposed dams, along with Murum and the already operational 2,400-megawatt (MW) Bakun dam, would generate about 6,000MW of clean energy for the state.

Taib told the audience of delegates, state officials and business personalities that the state aims to ultimately achieve a total of 20,000MW of hydropower and an additional 5,000MW from coal resources.

However, these capital-intensive projects will require the participation of foreign investors to move forward, a fact that both sides at least acquiescence with.

Taib said that while outside financing was necessary, the state feels confident in the formula that has been developed to attract investment subscriptions, noting that the Murum dam project received numerous subscriptions under this programme.

If one thing can be for certain it is that Qatar wants to move, and move in big. The State of Sarawak looks likely to receive them with open arms.

Justin Calderon is a research analyst at, a news portal owned by Inside Investor focusing on Southeast Asian economic topics as well as trade and investment relations between Asian and the Guld Cooperation Council. The views expressed are his own.