Qatar buys 'major' stake in oil giant Shell

Reuters, Friday 11 May 2012

Oil-rich Gulf state may become Shell's biggest single investor after Qatar's sovereign wealth fund purchases major stake

Qatar is continuing its overseas buying spree, snapping up a stake in Royal Dutch Shell and reportedly also eyeing a chunk of Italian oil major ENI .

A Shell spokeswoman confirmed that Qatar had bought a stake but declined to say how large.

The Middle East Economic Survey had reported earlier that Qatar's sovereign wealth fund was in "very advanced talks" to buy a 3-5 per cent stake.

"We are delighted to welcome the Qatar Investment Authority as a long term and major shareholder in Shell, and particularly given our excellent strategic relationship with the Qatari state," the spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

A 5 per cent stake would make Qatar Shell's biggest single investor, according to Reuters data.

Shell's London-listed "A" shares were lifted by the news, rising 0.8 per cent to trade at 20.66 euros at 0859 GMT, against a 0.2 per cent drop in the STOXX Europe 600 Oil and Gas index .

Eni shares traded up 1.2 per cent at 16.77 euros.

MEES had also reported the SWF was negotiating a stake in ENI. The Milan-based company declined to comment.

Shell operates multi-billion dollar natural gas projects in Qatar. The nation's massive gas supplies have made it rich, allowing it to create a sovereign wealth fund that has been buying up assets, including stakes in listed companies, around the world.

Last month Qatar Holding, a unit of the fund, said it had increased its stake in French oil group Total to 3 per cent and is undecided on buying more shares.

QIA has been the most active of the region's sovereign wealth funds in recent years, deploying the Gulf nation's plentiful natural gas riches in assets ranging from German sports car maker Porsche to British bank Barclays .

The fund has also been slowly buying into London-listed miner Xstrata recently. Its current holding in Xstrata, which is planning to merge with commodities trader Glencore , is about 7.2 per cent.

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