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Qatar Re move hailed as ‘vote of confidence’

On the move: Skyscrapers in Doha, Qatar. Qatar Reinsurance Company intends to redomicile from Doha to Bermuda later this year

Qatar Reinsurance Company intends to move its headquarters to Bermuda later this year as it redomiciles from Doha, Qatar.

The decision has been hailed as “a big vote of confidence” in Bermuda and comes only two years after the company set up a Qatar Re branch office on the Island.

Qatar Insurance Company, the parent company of Qatar Re, is a major insurance entity in the Middle East. In 2013 it announced a five-year plan, indicating its intention to expand its operations in Bermuda and Zurich.

The company has a second reinsurance presence in Bermuda, Antares Reinsurance Ltd, which will be merged with Qatar Re, creating a Class 4 reinsurer, subject to the transfer being granted regulatory approvals from the Bermuda Monetary Authority.

Qatar Re was founded in 2009 and is headquartered in the Qatar Financial Centre, Doha. The company intends to maintain a branch office both at that location and in Zurich, as well as representative offices in London and Singapore.

Merging with Antares Re will give Qatar Re a capital base of approximately $500 million, according to a statement by the company.

“As a global reinsurance franchise, we have to be present in the key reinsurance centres worldwide. Moving Qatar Re’s headquarters to Bermuda will consolidate capital and further enhance the international scope of our business and proximity to our clients,” said Gunther Saacke, Qatar Re’s chief executive officer.

The news has been welcomed by Ross Webber, CEO of the Bermuda Business Development Agency.

“It’s a big vote of confidence in the quality of Bermuda as a jurisdiction,” he said

“It speaks loudly about our regulator and the efforts Bermuda has made to ensure we stay at the forefront of Solvency II and the worldwide insurance and reinsurance business.

“We see it as a sign of confidence in Bermuda as a domicile, because a jurisdiction’s sovereign rating is important to worldwide reinsurance operations.

“The rating a country gets is based on the whole gamut of its economic activity, not just a single sector. That bodes well for what we are doing as an agency to encourage economic activity and growth here, and it demonstrates companies are looking at Bermuda as a domicile for the future.”

Bradley Kading, president of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsuers, said: “Bermuda is a thriving reinsurance market, often recognised as the third largest reinsurance hub in the world.

“Capital providers from Europe, the Middle East, China, Japan, Australia, North America, South America and Africa have invested in Bermuda commercial insurers and reinsurers.”

Mr Kading praised the ability of the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) to meet international regulatory standards, which he said was essential for the insurance and reinsurance market.

He added: “By the end of the year we believe a very important milestone will be crossed when the BMA will be recognised by both the US NAIC [National Association of Insurance Companies] and the EU as meeting their jurisdictional qualification standards.”

Last year Qatar Insurance Company bought Antares, a leading specialist insurer and reinsurer operating in the Lloyd’s market. This gave the company access to Lloyd’s through Syndicate 1274.

Qatar Re’s Bermuda office is led by Luke Roden, branch manager and global head of catastrophe. The office underwrites all property treaty lines within North America, including catastrophe.

Bermuda’s efforts to attract business from the Middle East stretch back a number of years. In its final years in power, the former Progressive Labour Party government undertook initiatives to strengthen connections between Bermuda and the region.

Former Premier Paula Cox met with the prime minister of Qatar in October 2012, and the following month’s Throne Speech described the former government’s intention to attract “business, capital and visitors” from the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In early 2013, shortly after the One Bermuda Alliance became the government, Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, praised the decision by Qatar Re to set up a branch office in Bermuda.

Qatar Insurance Company was founded in 1964 and has a market capitalisation of more than $4.5 billion. It is no stranger to Bermuda, being among institutional investors in CATCo Investment Management and CATCo-Re, a Class 3 reinsurance operation, in recent years.