| DOHA, June 23
DOHA, June 23 France and Qatar launched a mixed
Franco-Qatari fund on Sunday to invest 300 million euros in
small and medium-sized French companies, in a bid to quash
concerns raised by a previous Qatari plan to invest specifically
in depressed French suburbs.
Business ties between cash-strapped France and gas-rich
Qatar have deepened in the past five years as the euro zone's
second biggest economy behind Germany has overcome instincts for
economic patriotism to welcome inward investment in areas
ranging from sports to real estate and infrastructure.
But a plan for Qatar to pump 50 million euros into
businesses in the suburbs had proved divisive, when they were
first floated, with critics concerned that the Gulf state might
exercise too much influence and prompting former president
Nicolas Sarkozy to put them on hold until after the May 2012
The new Socialist government, facing rising unemployment and
stalled economic growth, then came up with a compromise for a
mixed Qatari-French fund aimed at small and medium-sized
businesses and a memorandum of understanding was signed in
"We do not refuse Qatari investments in France but we say
there are conditions to meet, areas to focus on and rules to
explain," Hollande said during a visit to Qatar.
"I said that it was best to create a joint investment fund
with Qatari and French funds to help small- and medium-sized
companies," he added.
The new fund would not target specific geographical areas in
France nor specific company profiles but will also be available
for companies in "our suburbs," Hollande said.
The fund will be operational from July, said Jean-Pierre
Jouyet, the head of French state-owned bank Caisse de Depots,
which is co-shareholder of the fund with Qatar's sovereign fund
Qatar Holding LLC.
There was little reaction when Qatar bought minority stakes
in French infrastructure firm Veolia and builder Vinci
, while sports fans cheered the purchase of football
club Paris St. Germain by its sovereign wealth fund.
The loudest criticism to the idea of a Qatari fund for
French suburbs came from far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who had
alleged that Qatar was only investing in areas heavily populated
by immigrants to spread Islamic ideas among Muslim youths.
However, left-wing politicians and commentators in
newspapers and on television also said that France should be
wary of signing deals with a monarchy that shared few of its
ideas about democracy and could be seeking to buy influence due
to France's seat on the United Nations Security Council.
(Reporting by Julien Ponthus and Dominique Vidalon; Editing by