* Gulf SWFs lead pledges for billions in investment in
* Qatar to join $2 billion investment joint venture
* Tourism main beneficiary of Gulf cash
(Recasts, adds more details)
By Souhail Karam
RABAT, Nov 24 Sovereign wealth funds from
Qatar and Kuwait led pledges on Thursday to invest almost $3
billion in cash-strapped Morocco, cementing ties between Arab
monarchies at a time of political turmoil in the region.
Qatar's sovereign wealth fund and the Moroccan state agreed
to establish a 50-50 investment joint venture worth $2 billion
that aims to help Rabat fund major development projects, a
statement from the Moroccan government said.
Visiting Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and
Morocco's King Mohammed attended the signature ceremony for the
agreement in Rabat to set up the joint venture fund between the
Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and its Moroccan equivalent.
QIA's Qatar Holding, Kuwaiti Investment Authority's Al Ajial
Investments and Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund Aabar
Investments also agreed on Thursday with Morocco's Fund for the
Development of Tourism to inject 20.8 billion dirhams ($2.5
billion) into a newly-created vehicle called Wessal Capital.
It will focus on the development on new resorts in Morocco,
a statement from the tourism ministry said.
United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed
Al Nahyan also attended the signing ceremony for the setting up
"The four partners will equally contribute to Wessal. It
will be 25 percent for each of them," said a source familiar
with the matter.
"Wessal will create an investment firm led by Morocco to
fund investment opportunities proposed under Morocco's tourism
development plan by 2020," added the source.
An invitation earlier this year for Arab kingdoms Morocco
and Jordan to join the Gulf Cooperation Council signalled that
monarchies in the region were trying to strengthen links in the
face of the "Arab Spring" uprisings.
Morocco's tourism ministry said the creation of Wessal was
the "result of a partnership that consolidates the historical
and brotherly ties between Morocco and Gulf Arab countries".
Morocco has devised a plan worth 100 billion dirhams in
investment to join the world's top 20 holiday destinations and
double tourism receipts to 150 billion dirhams by 2020.
Tourism is Morocco's main source of hard currency,
contributes close to 10 percent of its gross domestic product
and directly employs 450,000 people.