The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has become the eighth state-owned investor to set up an office in Singapore in a bid to gain exposure to Asian markets.

Singapore is increasingly seen as a base of operations for funds looking for expansion in Asia. Global SWF’s database on offices shows that the Qatari sovereign wealth fund joins Korea’s KIC and NPS, Norway’s NBIM, China’s SAFE and Canadian pension funds CDPQ, OMERS and OTPP in setting up a base in the island city state.

QIA’s Singapore arm is headed by Abdulla al-Kuwari, who was already overseeing the Qatari fund’s operations in Asia and Africa, indicating that it is serious about expanding its base of operations in the region. Its nascent office so far has identified a small cadre of personnel, but Global SWF expects more appointments in the near future as the fund concentrates its Asian operations in Singapore. QIA appears to have relocated employees from other offices in Asia.

Like other state-owned investors, QIA is increasingly turning towards venture capital with Asia a major focus of attention. This month, it participated in a US$3.6 billion funding round for Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart, alongside GIC, CPP Investments, Khazanah and ADQ. Global SWF’s database shows that other Indian investments so far this year include funding rounds for food e-commerce startup Swiggy and local language tech platform VerSe Innovation. Last year, it invested in China’s rival to Tesla, Xpeng Motors.

Global SWF transaction data indicate QIA is increasingly interested in venture capital investments. So far this year over three quarters of its transaction volume is in venture capital, compared to around 40% in 2020.

Why is Singapore regarded as so strategic in investment operations? Singapore has a significant pool of professional talent to draw upon, particularly as it is regarded as a veritable engine of venture capital and a hub of technological innovation. The fact that GIC and Temasek, key drivers of SOI investment in tech and innovation, are owned by the Singaporean state indicates a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem that many funds regard as crucial to their long-term yield. QIA’s choice of a Singapore office makes sense given its recent interest in Asian markets and venture capital.

Global SWF’s database shows that Singapore is now the fourth most favoured location for SOIs’ overseas operations, after London, New York and Hong Kong. Interest in establishing operations in the state has grown significantly over the past six years as Asian markets have assumed increasing importance.

However, Singapore is not the only base vying for SOI attention in the hunt for unicorns. Temasek confirmed their new outposts in Brussels and Shenzhen in their annual report, and BCI announced that it would hire a new private equity team in New York in 2022. KIC is also established its San Francisco team in March as it advances its investments in tech venture capital.