Qatar is a strategic partner for Italy, due to the significant and diversified volume of Qatari investments in Italy and due to the growing number of contracts and orders awarded by Italian companies in Qatar, particularly in sectors such as energy, infrastructure, plant engineering, and defense. The trade between Italy and Qatar has registered significant growth in recent years, hitting €4.054 billion in 2021, which constitutes an increase of 94% compared to 2020. In the period from January to September 2022, the bilateral trade volume reached EUR 5.856 billion, representing a growth of 166.3% compared to the same period in the previous year. Italy is well positioned both as a supplier and as a client of Qatar, ranking seventh among the receiving countries of Qatar’s exports and fourth in the ranking of supplier countries, the first among the European ones.
Regarding the imports from Italy to Qatar, it can be observed a steady growth overall, excluding 2020 when there was a decrease in imports because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The volume of imports reached EUR 2 billion in 2021, while the period from January to September 2022 registered a further increase of 97.4% compared to the same period of the previous year. The Italian sectors of production that are most successful in the Qatari market are the ones of manufacturing, furniture, and agri-food products, not to mention the large sovereign commissions that mainly involve the fields of defense and infrastructure within important projects that lie at the heart of the Emirate’s development strategy. Specifically, the field of defense is particularly representative of the economic cooperation between Italy and Qatar. Indeed, there are currently several important agreements between the Qatari Ministry of Defence and the Italian Government and defense companies, including contracts for the supply of naval and aeronautical equipment for the navy of the State of Qatar.
The volume of Qatar’s exports to Italy (mainly constituted by natural gas) experienced steady growth over time. In particular, during the last two years, there has been a significant increase in exports. Specifically, in 2021, the number of exports doubled, compared to the value registered in the previous year (+99.9%). This trend reached its peak in the period from January to September 2022, in which it has been observed a 233.9% growth, compared to the same period in 2021. In recent years, the cooperation between Italy and Qatar experienced remarkable progress within the energy sector. This development has been proven by the partnership agreement between Qatar Energy and ENI in the framework of the ambitious ‘North Field’ expansion plan (2022). The latter aims to increase Qatar’s liquefied natural gas production capacity by 43% by 2027. This agreement foresees the creation of a new joint venture between Qatar Energy and ENI. This event constitutes a historical milestone since it will be the first time that the Italian company will be involved in the process of extracting and exporting LNG from Qatar. Many other Italian companies are incentivized to operate in Qatar, also because there is a great appreciation in Qatar for Italian know-how and expertise in the energy sector
These Italian companies are operating in the Qatari peninsula through the award of contracts related to the processes of energy production and extraction. These include SAIPEM and Rosetti Marino, granted contracts with Qatar Energy, concerning the engineering, procurement, fabrication, and installation of platforms in the North Field East and Al Shaheen fields. Similarly, Maire Tecnimont is also operating in Qatar, thanks to a Joint Venture pertaining to the engineering, procurement, and construction of a petrochemical plant located in the industrial Qatari area of Ras Laffan.
TRANSPORT AND INFRASTRUCTURE
There are many partnerships between Italy and Qatar in the infrastructural sector. Among those, one of the most important ones is the construction of the Al Bayt stadium, on the occasion of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. The construction of the facility was commissioned by the Qatar government foundation Aspire Zone and completed by a Joint Venture consisting of the Qatar-based company Galfar Misna and Italy’s WeBuild (until 2020 Salini Impregilo) and Cimolai s.p.a., with an important role played by Leonardo spa in building the football facility’s surveillance and security system.
The Joint Venture ISG has also built the northern section of the “Red Line” of the subway in Doha. This section consists of seven stations connected by parallel tunnels stretching some 11.5 kilometers at a depth of 20 meters. This project is part of an ambitious infrastructure program within the framework of the “Qatar National Vision 2030”. In the latter there is an important contribution of Italian companies.
Further innovations, which have attracted Italian companies to Qatar, concern the aviation sector. The Italian companies ENAV and Leonardo have been involved in the management and implementation of the project to establish the Qatar Flight and Information Region (FIR) between 2021 and 2022. In this context, they were called to optimize air traffic management and assist in the takeover, restructuring, and management of the new Qatar airspace region through consulting and training activities.
Qatari investments in Italy have grown importantly since 2012, mainly in the hotel and luxury sector and through public fund operations.
One of the main areas of Qatar’s investment in Italy is real estate, such as the futuristic Porta Nuova complex in Milan, acquired in 2015 for a value of two billion euros and ranked the first neighborhood in the world to receive both the LEED and the WELL gold-rated certifications, further confirming the environmental and social sustainability of the project and the winning partnership between Italy and Qatar.
Many investments concern the luxury hospitality sector, such as that of the “Cala di Volpe” complex on the Costa Smeralda, purchased in 2012 by the Qatar Investment Authority along with the Pitrizza, Romazzino and Cervo hotels, as well as the Porto Cervo Marina and Pevero Golf Club. In the rest of Italy, the Qatar Investment Fund owns the Gritti Palace hotels in Venice, Excelsior and Saint Regis in Rome, Baglioni and the Four Seasons in Florence.
In the luxury sector, the Qatari investment fund Mayhoola for Investment, acquired the Valentino and Pal Zileri brands, increasing their sales and market presence. Regarding Valentino in particular, between 2013 and 2019, sales increased significantly, reporting 134 percent year-on-year growth.