Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Doha Bank plans mutual fund for Kerala expatriates

Doha Bank may soon collaborate with India’s Tata Asset Management to offer a mutual fund targeting Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs).

Doha Bank and Tata Asset Management are now in the design stage of the mutual fund.

"We intend to offer the product to investors after obtaining regulatory approvals," Doha Bank Deputy CEO R Seetharaman told Gulf Times yesterday.

"From our side the concept and design is over. We now have to formalise it at both the sides and take it across," he said, when asked for the mutual fund’s deployment timeframe.

Seetharaman said the proposed fund would be a good opportunity for NRKs to invest and gain returns.

"We intend to deploy a minimum 30% of the mutual fund in worthwhile projects in Kerala itself," he said.

"We hope to pick up some viable projects in Kerala in association with the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC). Of late tourism and IT sectors offer promising opportunities in Kerala."

Seetharaman said that a proposal on the Doha Bank-Tata Asset Management mutual fund would be presented to Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan.

The chief minister is scheduled to inaugurate a conference on ‘GCC transformation and indo-GCC investment opportunities’ hosted by Doha Bank at the Le Meridien Convention Centre here tonight. Discussions will also be held with KSIDC chairman V J Kurien.

Seetharaman said the proposal for such a mutual fund product had in fact come from the Kerala authorities themselves.

"When we met Achuthanadan in Thiruvananthapuram last month, he had suggested that such an offering would go a long way in helping thousands of middle income NRKs working in the Gulf," he said.

An estimated 3mn NRKs live in the Gulf. About 60% of the Indians in the GCC countries are from Kerala.

On the size of the mutual fund, he said it was a bit premature now.

"We first need to look at various aspects including the tax incentives," Seetharaman said.

"What India requires now is foreign direct investments. Products such as the mutual fund in our drawing board may hopefully fit the bill," he said.

On the prospects of listing the proposed mutual fund at the Doha Securities Market (DSM), he said: "It is definitely an option. Qatari stocks should also be listed across. Cross indexing is useful."

Seetharaman said Doha Bank was eagerly awaiting the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) licence for expanding its operations to India.

"We have sought the licence for a full-fledged branch. Our application was submitted in August last year. We hope it will come through quickly," he said.

He said a high-level Kerala delegation led by Achuthanadan had confirmed participation at tonight’s event. Besides the chief minister, Kerala ministers Elamaram Karim (Industry) and S Sarma (Fisheries and Registration) and senior officials will attend it.

Doha Bank would be represented by its chairman Sheikh Fahad bin Mohamed bin Jabor al-Thani, Vice-Chairman Ahmed Abdulrahman Yousaf Obeidan and Managing Director and CEO Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mohamed bin Jabor al-Thani.

Some prominent Qatari investors, besides Emke Group Chairman M K Yousef Ali, have also reached Kochi to attend the event.

Meanwhile, the Qatari delegation was hosted by two major institutions — Kochi Refineries and Infopark here yesterday. The Kochi Refineries executives sought Qatari participation in its ambitious expansion programmes.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a major Infopark client, also made a presentation for the Qatari delegation at its facility here.


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