Apr 08 2008

Who's who on the Arab rich list

April 2008
Forbes magazine's latest listing of the world's richest people counted plenty of individuals and families based in the Gulf. GSN lists the wealthiest Gulfis giving Forbes' Arab rich list ranking, along with our own take on the players and their recent activity.

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al-Saud (1st - $21bn)
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal first registered in 1988 when he bought a stake in United Saudi Commercial Bank for $10m. He turned global scale investor in 1991, when coming in as a 'white knight' he invested $797m in Citicorp, making him the bank's largest individual shareholder. Alwaleed has close links across the Saudi establishment (but not necessarily with his outspoken father), from Prince Sultan Bin Abdelaziz to Islamic banker Saleh Kamel , in whose Arab Radio Television (ART) network he is an investor (he is thought to hold around 30%). Alwaleed is chairman and CEO of his Riyadh based Kingdom Holding Company . His up and coming son Prince Khalid and recently married daughter Princess Reem are thought to hold small stakes. Alwaleed is constantly on the move in March he visited Turkmenistan and Tajikistan - and recently announced his plans for a 'flying palace', his version of the new double-decker Airbus A380, which he has bought. He has numerous investments across the world. His father, Prince Talal Bin Abdelaziz, led the so-called 'free princes' during an early 1960s Al-Saud family power struggle and spent a short period in exile in Cairo. Last September,Talal generated headlines by announcing plans to set up a new political party.

Nasser Al-Kharafi and family (2nd - $14bn)
Nasser, in his mid-60s is the son of the late Mohammed Al-Kharafi, a key player in Kuwaiti politics and business. Mohammed Al-Kharafi was a founding member of National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) and he chaired Kuwait's largest bank for 13 years. Until recently the family was thought to retain a significant stake in the bank. Nasser's older brother is the prominent National Assembly speaker and former minister Jassim Mohammed Al-Kharafi. Nasser's sister Faiza is the former president of Kuwait University. Nasser is president of the family company Mohammed Abdulmuhsin Al-Kharafi and Sons (MAK) , founded in the mid-1950s (also called Kharafi Group ); his siblings and children - he has three sons,Marzouk, Badr and Faisal - are also involved in the company. Although the Al-Kharafi do not appear to rank alongside Kuwait's Al-Ghanim as a very old merchant family (there are records of them as being involved in the pearl trade), one report from the 1990s said the Kharafi business family started life in the 19th century with a fleet of dhows trading pearls and other goods between the Gulf and India.

MAK made its fortune from the Gulf construction boom of the 1970s, and the group's other interests include manufacturing, air transport, insurance, food, agency trading, banking and hotels. In post-Gulf War Kuwait, MAK was responsible for restoring the fire-damaged parliament. MAK continues to build large construction projects like roads, airports, pipelines, office blocks, bridges and industrial plants and performs engineering tasks such as land reclamation. MAK has the franchise for global names including KFC, Pizza Hut, Hardee's and Baskin Robbins, and in 2006 bought a stake in doughnut giant Krispy Kreme. In March, MAK bought a 3% stake in Sudan's BritishVirgin Islands-incorporated, Khartoum-based Petrodar Operating Company Ltd, from Dubai-based Al-Thani Investments . Petrodar is a consortium involved in Blocks 3 and 7 in Sudan's southern region other consortium members are China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Malaysia's Petronas, China's Sinopec and the governmentowned Sudan Petroleum Company (Sudapet), which took a 2% stake from Al-Thani , and now holds 10% . Al-Thani sold its 5% for $500m.

MAK has a heavy presence in Africa, especially in Egypt through its Egypt-Kuwait Holding Company (EKH) which is majority owner of Tri-Ocean Energy , set up in early 2006 to focus on oil exploration and production in Egypt and abroad. In February,Tri-Ocean said it had made a light oil discovery in its North Shadwan concession which will be capable of producing 10,000 b/d of oil. EKH also has stakes in Fayum Gas Company ,which says it has a 20-year concession to design, construct and operate a gas transmission and distribution network in Fayum governorate. With Shell and India's GAIL it is an investor in Natgas ,which has a similar concession to design, construct and operate urban gas transmission and distribution networks. Elsewhere, the Kharafi Group does construction work in Tanzania, owns hotels in Gambia (the Kairaba Beach Hotel and Sheraton Gambia resort), and has offices in Lesothov Botswana,Mozambique, Kenya, Senegal, Niger and Eritrea.

The Sawiris family (3rd-5th and 17th)
All four most prominent members - Naguib (3rd - $12.7bn),Nassef (4th - $11bn), Onsi (5th - $9.1bn) and Samih (17th - $2.9bn) - of the Sawiris family have made it into the ArabTop 20. The Sawiris are often referred to as Egypt's version of the Rockefellers. The ageing patriarch of the family, Onsi, set up a small contracting company in the early 1950s. In Cairo, his company was awarded several contracts by the Irrigation Ministry to dig waterways and basins, and later roadbuilding contracts but in 1961, under the new socialist Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the business was targeted for nationalisation.

Onsi was forced to work as a government employee in his own firm and was prevented from leaving Egypt. He eventually left in 1966 for Libya, again setting up a construction company. He returned in 1977 and encouraged by Anwar Sadat's government, started a construction firm for the third time. Orascom quickly became a more diversified group, and won deals to represent top US companies like Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, and also won financing and contracts from the US Agency for International Development. In the 1990s Orascom gradually diverged from construction into other businesses, and was split into three. Onsi has three sons: the eldest is Naguib , followed by Samih and then Nassef. Naguib is now responsible for the telecoms side ( Orascom Telecom Holding ), Samih for the family's hotel and tourism business ( Orascom Hotels & Development ) and Nassef on the industry/contracting and cement business ( Orascom Construction Industries ).

Mohammed Al-Amoudi (6th - $9bn)
Al-Amoudi is one of a group of Saudi businessmen born into non- Saudi or marginal Saudi communities, who have emerged as very significant business players, usually by being linked to senior Saudi princes; these men have often promoted business in their families' countries of origin,while also become international magnates in their own right. Al-Amoudi is of Yemeni/Ethiopian origin, and at one time his sponsor was Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdelaziz.

He has taken a big interest in Ethiopia, but his interests are much wider than that, having built upon his Swedish operations - he owns Corral Petroleum Holding there - and expanded via operations like buying Morocco's Samir refinery company, in a privatisation sale. He is rapidly buying up African oil interests (GSN 821/10). In Saudi Arabia he owns Naft Services Company , which operates petrol stations; he also holds a stake in Saudi Research and Marketing Group (which publishes Arab News and Asharq Al-Awsat), alongside Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal 's Kingdom Holding Company , and grandchildren of Riyadh governor Prince Salman Bin Abdelaziz. Al-Amoudi's other concerns include ABV Rock Group , which built the Saudi strategic oil reserve infrastructure.

Abdelaziz Al-Ghurair and family (7th - $8.9bn) and Saif Al- Ghurair and family (18th - $2.8bn)
Like many Gulf merchant families, theAl-Ghurair are thought to have made their initial fortune from the pearling industry. Saif Al-Ghurair began his career working on ships owned by his father, which traded dates for timber with the East African coast. According to one account, when the oil boom hit Dubai, Saif built warehouses and acquired transport equipment to take advantage of the new demand for modern products. He rapidly attained a prominent position in Dubai, which he consolidated by investing in real estate. Today, his branch of the family owns Al-Ghurair Group , which he inherited from his father Ahmed. Among its many interests, Al-Ghurair Group owns shopping malls and is heavily involved in manufacturing it owns Gulf Extrusions ,which it says is the largest aluminium extrusion facility in the region. It also holds a stake in Shuaa Capital , chaired by Saif 's son Majid, who last year was named a World Economic Forum young global leader.

Saif 's 54-year-old nephew Abdelaziz is vice chairman and managing director of Al-Ghurair Investments , which is majority-owned by his father Abdullah (Saif 's brother). This branch of the family founded Dubai-based Mashreqbank , retaining a majority stake with Abdelaziz as CEO. Al-Ghurair Investments owns Masafi Mineral Water .Abdelaziz is also chairman of RAK Petroleum (GSN 821/8) and sits on the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry board.

Maan Al-Sanea (9th - $8.1bn)
Low-profile Saudi/Kuwaiti investor Maan Al-Sanea has emerged into the international spotlight with a series of large investments.

Compared to other Saudi big spenders - such as the multi-billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al-Saud Al-Sanea's investments have until recently been discreet. He recently emerged as the second biggest shareholder in HSBC , with a 3.1% stake worth £3.3bn. He also runs a large, diversified family conglomerate Saad Group. Al- Sanea is very prominent in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province and has ties through marriage to the hugely rich merchant family, the Al-Gosaibis. Saad has several subsidiaries, including Lombard Atlantic Bank in the Netherlands Antilles, and through his Saad Investments Company he has stakes in Bahrain's Awal Bank , the UK's Berkeley Group and Bank of China.

Suleiman Al-Rajhi (8th - $8.4bn), Saleh Al-Rajhi (12th -$4.7bn) and Abdullah Al-Rajhi (14th - $3.2bn)
The Al Rajhi family business empire is one of the most established in Saudi Arabia with very many businesses owned by different branches of the family. Their fortune stems from a substantial money exchange business started in the 1930s. The family, originally from Qassim province, now numbers thousands, but the most important members are the descendants of Abdelaziz Bin Saleh Al-Rajhi.

He had many sons, but the four most important are: Saleh, Abdullah, Suleiman and Mohammed. Saleh is in his 90s and has many children, with conservative estimates of 50-60 offspring. He owns Saleh Abdelaziz Al-Rajhi and Partners with his children and some seven wives. He has retired from business and his children are now the key players in the bank, and in Al-Rajhi business interests.

Abdullah is estimated to have some 40 children and has a large stake in Al-Rajhi Bank , as well as having other business interests. Suleiman is in his late 80s and has business interests including the huge Al- Watania Poultry Company , as well as being doyen of Islamic bankers.

Mohammed Bin Issa Al-Jaber (10th - $5.3bn)
MBI is chairman and CEO of MBI International , a hotel and resort, real estate development and food industries conglomerate which says it has a net asset value of $6.6bn. In Saudi Arabia, MBI International has a joint venture with Dubai's Nakheel to develop real estate projects. In March 2008,Austrian Airlines approved the sale of a 20% stake to Al-Jaber. MBI is another Hadramouti billionaire and now has a variety of interests; he has secured a Unesco honorary ambassadorship.

Saleh Kamel (11th - $5bn)
A pioneering player in the field of Islamic finance, Saleh Kamel is chairman and owner of Dallah Albaraka Group , which has a vast range of investments. He is joint shareholder with Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal in Arab Media Corporation Holding , which owns Arab Radio and Television Network (ART) . In December 2006, a NewYork judge dismissed a lawsuit against Kamel and his Albaraka Investment Bank. Accusations had been made that they had been involved in supporting Al-Qaeda. This was thrown out of court.

Saad Hariri (13th - $3.3bn)
The Saudi/Lebanese 37-year-old Saad is the second son of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who was assassinated in February 2005. Rafiq Hariri established Saudi Oger in the late 1970s, developing the Riyadh-based company into a major construction conglomerate. Today it remains privately owned, and directed by the Hariri family. Saad is Saudi Oger 's chairman, his elder brother Bahaeddine is vice president. Saudi Oger owns the Sheraton Riyadh and holds stakes in Jordan's Arab Bank and Saudi Investment Bank .

Saad is a director of the Saudi Research and Publishing Company , and hence has good ties to the Bin Salman princes. Following his father's assassination, Saad took up his political path and is head of the majority in Lebanon's parliament. He has said it was not a job he wanted at first, "then we decided that what my father wanted to achieve had not been achieved." Time magazine says he has a fondness for Partagas cigars and vintage roadsters.

Majid Al-Futtaim (15th - $3bn)
Majid Al-Futtaim Group builds and owns shopping malls - it is behind the vast Mall of the Emirates (complete with ski slope) in Dubai, and has malls under construction in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. It has a joint venture with French supermarket chain Carrefour.

Suleiman Al-Gosaibi (16th - $3bn)
The Al-Gosaibi hold stakes in numerous Bahraini and Saudi companies. Originally from Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province (Hofuf in Al-Hasa oasis, the centre of Saudi agriculture), the family first made its fortune through trading dates to India, and became enormously wealthy during the Gulf 's pearling boom - famous for being Arabia's first millionaires (in the 1920s and 30s they were the richest family in Arabia). Al-Gosaibis were particularly close to Saudi founder Ibn Saud. Suleiman is chairman of family company Ahmad Hamad Al- Gosaibi and Brothers (AHAG) , a largish conglomerate with interests in shipping, insurance, hotels, trading, transport, manufacturing and financial services. In Bahrain it owns International Banking Corporation. Suleiman is the uncle of Mann Al-Sanea's wife Sanaa Al-Gosaibi.

Bassem Al-Ghanim (19th - $2.8bn) and Kutayba Al-Ghanim (20th - $2.8bn)
Bassem and Kutayba are brothers and come from the very well known Kuwaiti (and Gulfi) Al-Ghanim merchant family. Unlike some of Kuwait's large merchant class who have their roots in Iran, the Al- Ghanim came from central Arabia and moved to Kuwait with the now ruling Al-Sabah clan in the early 18th century. Not surprisinggiven their aristocratic status, the Al-Ghanim have married into the Al-Sabah at the highest level - Bassam's great aunt Sheikha Hussa married Ahmed Al-Jabir Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, who ruled Kuwait from 1921-50. The Kuwaiti Al-Ghanim initially made their money from pearling and running dhows on the Basra-Bombay route. In the 1920s they lost boats in a storm and Bassem and Kutayba's grandfather Ahmed was forced to embark on a new career, as a timber merchant. In what became a lucrative source of income,Ahmed was given the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later BP ) agency. His English-speaking son Yousef, helped Anglo-Persian in negotiations for an oil concession in Kuwait. Yousef (Bassem and Kutayba's father) entered the quarrying business and gradually branched out taking the agency for Imperial Airways (later British Airways). In 1938,Yousef was the first Kuwaiti to visit Britain, and as a result, his sons - including Bassem - were sent to school in Scotland. Yousef picked up the agency for Chrysler in the late 1939s and afterWorldWar Two he became the agent in Kuwait for General Motors. Today, Al-Ghanim Industries - where Bassem is president, Kutayba is chairman, and Kutayba's son Omar is CEO - holds the agencies for Acer, Yamaha, Sony Ericsson, Samsonite, Samsung, Siemens,Nokia,Motorola,Kenwood, Fujitsu, IBM,Dell,Casio,Cannon, Daewoo, Electrolux, Compaq, Minolta, Philips, Toshiba,Whirlpool and Xerox (among others). An Al-Ghanim Industries affiliate, the Gulf Trading and Refrigerating Company (which Bassem is a director of) represents Mars,Kraft Foods and Colgate Palmolive. Outside of family business, Bassem is chairman and managing director of the Kuwait based Gulf Bank , in which Al-Ghanim Industries holds a stake.

© Gulf States Newsletter 2008

© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.

Show Comments (11)

Send This Article To Your Friends

All fields are required.

Use commas for multiple email addresses

We'll use your email address to send the article on your behalf and it will not be collected or used for any other purposes.