Qatar Targets AAA Credit Rating as Non-Oil GDP Expands

Qatar seeks to raise its credit rating by two levels to AAA, putting the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas on par with countries including Canada and Norway.

“We are working on AAA instead of AA,” Finance Minister Yousef Kamal told reporters in Doha today. “Our strength deserves AAA.” Qatar’s non-oil economic output will expand 9 percent this year, Kamal said, in line with International Monetary Fund estimates. The hydrocarbon sector isn’t expected to grow until 2017, he said.

Bonds from Qatar and Abu Dhabi, which has the same rating, emerged as a refuge for investors amid Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. The cost of insuring Qatar’s dollar debt for five years, a measure of credit risk, dropped 45 basis points last year to 82, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The contracts declined another 20 basis points this year to 63.

Qatar seeks to diversify away from petroleum exports by developing industries and financial services. The country plans to spend $140 billion on infrastructure by 2019, three years before hosting the World Cup soccer tournament, the most-watched sporting event. Projects include $35 billion metro and rail network, new highways, a new port, nine new stadiums and sporting facilities.

The country will record a budget surplus of 8.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, the third biggest among the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council after Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, according to IMF data. The government plans next year’s budget, which goes into effect next month, to be a “little bit” bigger than the current budget and based on an oil price of $65 a barrel, Kamal said.

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