Qatar client case studies in 2021
US freight forwarder establishes Qatar joint venture
- Our Client, a USA air, sea and land transport and freight forwarding services provider, sought to establish a joint venture in Qatar with one of their longtime business partners in the country to provide services within the MENA region.
- Following our initial phone discussion with the top management of our Client’s company on i) their intended business activity ii) potential licences and approval required iii) proposed corporate structures and iv) our engagement fees, our Client confirmed their interested to proceed with Qatar JV setup.
- Our Client completed, signed and emailed a scanned copy of our engagement letter and settled our full invoice for Qatar JV setup and bank account opening.
- Healy Consultants Group PLC advised our Client on the legal requirements, including the requirement for two representatives from the local JV partner and legal representative. Our Incorporation Team sent the proposed corporate structure to our Client for approval.
- The Client then provided the due diligence documents in compliance with our Firm’s compliance and KYC process requirements.
- Healy Consultants Group PLC drafted a detailed project plan mapping out the step-by-step process of Qatar JV company incorporation, licensing, tax registration and bank account opening.
- We also drafted a detailed business plan for the new JV company outlining the proposed structure, potential suppliers and customers and the intended business activity of our Client in Qatar.
- Healy Consultants Group PLC also discussed with our Client the specific licences their land, air and sea freight forwarding business may require in Qatar before operations start.
- Our Client confirmed that because they would not be providing freight forwarding for air and sea for the first six months to one year, they would use their local partner who is already licensed to provide these services. We thus agreed to further the application for a land freight forwarding licence only.
- Healy Consultants Group PLC i) submitted the name reservation application with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) and ii) prepared the Power of Attorney (POA) and Articles of Association (AOA) and sent the complete incorporation documents checklist to our Client.
- Unfortunately, during this period, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the embassies were closed indefinitely. There was a delay of at least four weeks before our Client could legalise documents at the Qatar Embassy in the USA.
- Following receipt of the original signed and legalised documents, our Incorporation Team proceeded to attest the AOA at the Companies Affairs Department at MOCI, as well as the Ministry of Justice.
- Thereafter, Healy Consultants Group PLC submitted the business activity approval application with the Ministry of Transport (MoT) for our Client’s intended freight forwarding business activity.
- Before granting approval, the MoT requested that we first obtain pre-approval from the Traffic Department since our Client’s business activity involved land transportation.
- Following activity approval by MoT, we applied to MOCI and obtained the Certificate of Registration (CR) within three weeks. Traditionally, this process would take five working days. However, timelines were extended due to short staffing at the MOCI due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trade license application
- After receipt of the CR, Healy Consultants Group PLC requested our Client to provide i) the lease agreement ii) a photograph of the building and iii) a certificate of building completion of their preferred office space in Doha.
- Thereafter, Healy Consultants Group PLC prepared the trade/municipal licence application forms and submitted the same to MOCI. The municipal department at MOCI then arranged for a site inspection of the office space.
- Before granting municipal licence approval, MOCI requested our Client first secure approval from the Traffic Department at MoT.
- During municipal licence application, Healy Consultants Group PLC simultaneously contacted our Client’s preferred bank in Qatar to submit a pre-application for a corporate bank account opening, for the bank’s consideration.
- Following issuance of the municipal licence, our banking team prepared the necessary bank forms, including a board resolution appointing bank signatories, and sent them for our Client’s review, signatures and email return.
- Simultaneously, Healy Consultants Group PLC obtained i) a Tax Identification Number card from the tax department at the Ministry of Finance and ii) company establishment card (computer card) from the Ministry of Interior.
- Healy Consultants Group PLC received the original board resolution and submitted the document to our Client’s local partners for countersignatures. Thereafter, we submitted the same to the Client’s bank for consideration and to advance the account opening.
- Following submission of the signed resolution, the Client’s bank reverted questioning the discrepancy in our Client’s local partner’s signature discrepancy in Arabic and English. Following our explanation, and after requesting the bank officer to counter check the partner’s signatures within their system (since the partner already maintains an account at the bank), the bank agreed to proceed.
- Three weeks thereafter, our Client’s preferred Qatari bank approved the multicurrency corporate account and emailed the account numbers directly to our Client. The bank also emailed our Client the internet banking login details.
- Our team collated all corporate documents including i) Certificate of Registration ii) Municipal Licence iii) Tax and Establishment Card and iv) attested AOA, and handed over the same to our Client’s partner in Qatar.
IT trainer set up Qatar subsidiary
Our Client runs an IT training facility with operations based mainly in South East Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia). The company designs multimedia software and trains company staff in its use for various industries including oil, gas, and petrochemical companies.
Following a successful bid to provide a comprehensive training programme for a major gas company in Qatar, the company decided that setting up a Qatar subsidiary company would be the ideal way to both complete the contract as well as gain a more long-term presence in the booming Qatari economy. According to recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) figures, Qatar has the world’s fastest-growing economy, and in an effort to streamline and modernize its economy is actively encouraging successful IT companies to base themselves there.
Following several visits to Qatar during the bidding process for the IT contract, our Client was attracted to the idea of setting up a regional headquarters in the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP), because it is a cutting-edge facility which would project an excellent image to the company’s Clients in Qatar and regionally. Our Client also wished to retain 100% control of the company, which he thought would be best achieved in the QSTP since it is classed as a free zone.
He communicated these objectives to Healy Consultants during an introductory email to our headquarters in Singapore, and our Sales and Marketing Team replied with a detailed breakdown of costs involved in setting up a presence in Qatar, along with associated costs such as obtaining work permits for foreign staff. Our Client, a regular visitor to Singapore, then arranged to drop in to our head office to meet Aidan Healy, the managing director, to get further information about the intricacies of setting up a business in Qatar, as well as the potential hurdles of doing so. At this point, our Client also signed Healy Consultants’ client engagement letter and provided our team with all required due diligence. He also arranged to transfer engagement funds to our bank account on the same day.
At this point, the engagement was passed to our staff in Doha, whose role would be to liaise with the relevant authorities in Qatar to set the business up efficiently. Since our Client was overseeing a contract in Malaysia at the time, our team were able to manage the early steps of the process without him having to visit Qatar.
The first step Healy Consultants took was to visit the Office of the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority in downtown Doha, with the aim of obtaining foreign investment approval for the company. After consulting with the QFC Authority Business Development Department, we were able to secure approval that our Client’s business activities were in accordance with the QFC Authority’s strategic objectives, and were able proceed with incorporation.
To apply for investment approval, Healy Consultants submitted to the QVC Authority Business Department two copies of Regulatory Authority Form Q01.
Our Qatar Team continued to put pressure on the QFC with phone calls and personal visits. Sunil, our ‘Mr Fixit’ staff member in Doha, is renowned for his ability to expedite many processes in Qatar and QFC approval was obtained quicker than usual, an approval letter being issued in 21 working days, valid for three years.
The next stage of the process was to obtain membership for the new company in the QSTP. As per QSTP requirements, Healy Consultants’ staff prepared (in business plan format) a description of the company, outlining its intended activities and brief financial projections (including a profit and loss forecast), which was then submitted by Sunil to the QSTP offices.
Within 10 days we had received confirmation from the QSTP that it had accepted the company’s preliminary application. Our Doha staff then completed a full membership application document (supplied by the QSTP), which again was submitted (this time via email) to the QSTP administration office.
Within one week, this application document had been approved, and full membership of the QSTP was confirmed to Sunil, who relayed the good news to our Client in Malaysia.
The next step was to prepare documentation to legally incorporate a 100% foreign-owned (limited liability) company in Qatar at the Ministry of Commerce in Doha. This involved submitting Articles of Association which had been signed by our Client during a visit to Singapore (and which had then been couriered to Sunil in Doha), as well as the approval document from the QSTP and other due diligence on our Client as the shareholder. Within one week, we had received a Commercial Registration license from the Ministry of Commerce.
At this point of the engagement, our Client visited Qatar, primarily with a view to finding appropriate office space in Doha. Although the Client ultimately wishes to obtain a 45 square-meter premises in the Emerging Technology Centre of the QSTP, facilities are still under construction. Therefore, in the meantime our Client was obliged to locate a small office outside the QSTP.
Our staff arranged for a reliable real estate agent to drive our Client around Doha to view office space available on a short-term lease, and this was achieved within one day when our Client opted for a functional office in a tower block in the prestigious West Bay district of Doha.
With all relevant licenses acquired and a lease agreement in place, Healy Consultants’ Banking Team prepared an application form for a corporate bank account at an international bank in Doha, as well as a business plan describing the company’s activities and reasons for setting up in Qatar.
Our Banking Team then visited the bank with our Client, and submitted the above documents as well as corporate documents (including articles of association).
Two weeks after submitting the bank account application, Healy Consultants’ Doha office received account opening approval, notification for which we passed to our Client by email in Kuala Lumpur. This was followed two weeks later by Internet login and password details in a sealed envelope, which was sent to our Qatar office and then couriered to Singapore for our Client’s collection. In a separate package two days later, we also received an ATM card for the bank signatory, which was also couriered to Singapore for our Client’s collection.
Our Client has expressed interest in using our services to help him obtain residence and work visas for his expatriate employees. However, the Client has decided to wait until the company moves into the QSTP before embarking on this step, and until then the West Bay office is being staffed by locally-hired employees.
Travel industry executive set up Qatar LLC
Our Client Brian is a travel industry executive who was working for one of the world’s leading conference and exhibition organisers. A South African national, Brian had been based in London for 10 years, where he had carved out a successful career organising travel-related events around the world. Due to the nature of the international conference and exhibitions market, Brian found himself spending increasing amounts of time in the Gulf and Asia Pacific regions. Brian enjoyed in particular his working trips to the Gulf, and had for some time been considering setting up his own meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) consultancy in the region.
Brian approached Healy Consultants’ Dubai office during his annual visit to the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) event in the city, meeting one of our consultants to find out how we could assist him in setting up a business in the region. Brian was particularly interested in Qatar – he had visited Doha on business twice before and had been impressed by the evolution of the tourism industry, as well as conference and exhibition infrastructure. He also believed that as it was a relatively young, niche market, offering different opportunities than nearby Dubai.
During the meeting in Dubai, Healy Consultants explained to Brian the advantages and disadvantages of setting up a business in Qatar. Although the government is working to streamline incorporation procedures, they remain slow and obtaining foreign investment approval can be time-consuming for certain business types. We warned Brian that Qatar company setup was costly too – as well as having a minimum paid-up capital requirement of almost US$55,000, a Qatar limited liability company (LLC) requires a Qatari citizen to hold a majority share.
Brian returned to London with a full cost proposal for setting up a Qatar LLC, including provision of a nominee shareholder, company incorporation, and a corporate bank account. Brian advised that he would contact us within two weeks with a decision on whether to proceed, and was true to his word by returning a signed client engagement letter to our Dubai office, as well as settling our fees by bank transfer. As is normal when our nominee services are used in the Gulf, we recommend that, if possible, our Client meets the nominee in person so that they can agree on the exact nature of the relationship, and to sign a contract to that effect. In practice Healy Consultants’ nominees have no active involvement in the company unless requested by the Client, instead simply fulfilling statutory legal requirements.
Healy Consultants suggested that Brian travel to Qatar when convenient to meet with our Qatari nominee, Sameer, who is a respected businessman in the country. This was possible since Brian was due to be visiting Dubai the following week to attend another major exhibition, and as such was able to stop in Doha on his return journey to the UK. The meeting between Brian and Sameer went well, and during the course of the day our team in Doha drew up a nominee services agreement incorporating the terms and conditions requested by both parties, and this was then signed by both.
With a clearly defined nominee role now in place, the next step was for Healy Consultants to begin business setup. A company name search was conducted by Healy Consultants in person at the Ministry of Economy and Commerce in Doha, and the name was approved on the same day. Brian was in Doha until later that evening, so our staff took the opportunity of accompanying him to a branch of a National Bank in Doha to deposit the company’s minimum capital of QR200,000 (US$54,900), a statutory requirement. While they waited, the bank issued a letter confirming the deposit, which would be necessary in the later process of obtaining Commercial Registration for the company.
Brian returned to London that evening, and the following day Healy Consultants began to prepare the corporate documents which would be sent to him for signature. There were two principal challenges at this point, and which we had pointed out to Brian at the start of the engagement. Firstly, all corporate documents in Qatar are in Arabic, so Brian would be required to sign papers he did not necessarily understand. Alternatively, he could arrange to have the documents translated into English, which would attract additional costs. Secondly, business processes in Qatar – especially those which require contact with government bodies – tend to slow during Qatar’s hottest summer months of July and August, when many people are away for holiday.
With this in mind, Healy Consultants prepared the Memorandum and Articles of Association in Arabic, according to the standard format of the Ministry of Economy and Commerce. We then emailed the Memorandum and Articles of Association, as well as director and shareholder consent forms, to Brian for his signature and return to us. Our team had indicated clearly on the documents where Brian should sign, since he opted not to go to the trouble and cost of having them translated. Brian returned the signed documents within one week, and with this in hand Healy Consultants submitted them, along with the bank deposit confirmation letter, to the Commercial Licenses department at the Ministry of Economy and Commerce in person, with advice that approval would take up to two weeks.
Three follow-up calls to the Ministry to check progress over the next two weeks met with little success, since our ‘regular’ officer was on holiday in Lebanon and his assistants were less efficient in responding to our requests. However, one week later we received verbal confirmation that the Ministry had approved Commercial Registration for the company, and this was followed the following day by an email with a commercial licence in Arabic showing the same. Healy Consultants immediately forwarded this to Brian in the UK.
The next step in the process was to register the new company at the Qatar Chamber of Commerce in Doha, a process which involved completing an application form (in Arabic) providing details on the company and its activities, as well as its corporate structure (shareholders and directors). Our team received confirmation of membership by letter five days later, and scanned and emailed a copy to Brian. With this achieved, the Qatar LLC was now a fully legal entity. However, it still required a corporate bank account in Qatar to enable it to receive funds from Clients and make payments to suppliers. Our Banking Team prepared an account opening application pack, while our Singapore-based Marketing and Media Team wrote a detailed business plan, highlighting the company’s activities, potential Clients, and financial projections. The business plan and bank account application form were then emailed to Brian for his signature and return to us.
Since Sameer is a company shareholder, he was able to represent the company (despite not being a signatory to the bank account) in a brief bank interview, during which he explained why the company required a corporate bank account in Qatar. The application pack was also submitted along with the signed business plan, and an assurance from the bank officer that the application would be considered as quickly as possible. Within one week, we received account opening approval, and advised Brian of the same on the same day. Over the following two weeks we received PIN numbers for internet banking and ATM cards, followed by the cards themselves, which were kept securely in our Doha office.
With the bulk of the engagement largely complete, Healy Consultants arranged to courier a company kit folder to Brian in London, containing the original Commercial Registration license; a bound copy of the Memorandum and Articles of Association; original share certificates and Healy Consultants’ client feedback form. Brian is currently finalising his preparations to move permanently to Qatar. In the meantime, he is using our Qatar virtual office services, including using our Doha office as a meeting point if required, as well as a telephone answering service to handle initial enquiries from prospective Clients.
Brian has been happy with the services provided by Healy Consultants to date, especially in our ability to deliver results with minimal inconvenience. We are looking forward to further supporting his business in Qatar in the future.