Last year, the combined wealth of the world’s 50 wealthiest Arabs stayed almost exactly the same as it had done in 2011. This came as something of a surprise, given the economic strength of the Gulf region - where the majority of our entries are based - and the signs of recovery witnessed elsewhere around the globe. Fast forward to this year and it’s abundantly clear that the largesse accumulated by the planet’s richest Arabs is back on an upward march. In total, the names you are about to see over the next few pages are worth a combined $266.21bn, a 3.5 percent increase on the year before. To put that figure into context, these 50 names alone are worth as much as the entire economies of Egypt or Hong Kong.
Much of that rise has been pushed by our number-one entry, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al Saud. Over the last ten years of the Rich List, he has been the top-placed figure each year, and if anything the gap is widening. The Kingdom Holding chairman grew his wealth by just over 20 percent in the course of 2013 - helped by a canny investment in Twitter that has paid off in the billions after the social media firm went public in November.
Elsewhere, Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber also had a stellar year, with his wealth of $12.66bn a huge rise on the year before. Last year’s second-highest entry, the Olayan Family, has been pushed down to number three.
As with previous years, some entries have dropped out of the 2013 list for various reasons, including the relinquishing of key roles from organisations, which has made it increasingly difficult to keep track of their wealth. We have also grouped certain family members - the Mansour and Sawiris clans in Egypt, the Al Rajhis in Saudi Arabia and the Al Ghurairs in the UAE, for example - who are effectively part of the same business.
How we did it
Our first ever Rich List was published in 2004, and at the time caused considerable controversy. No magazine had ever attempted to assess the wealth of the world’s richest Arabs, and nobody had ever come close to publishing it in such detail.
Over the past decade, the list has not only become a major fixture in the global publishing calendar, but a far more refined process. Whilst our first list in 2004 raised many eyebrows, a number of individuals on the list soon approached us to clarify what they felt was a more accurate reflection of their wealth, while others we had not included came forward to provide detailed figures of their wealth.
This year, a significant number of names on the list have assisted us in assessing the wealth. Of course, not everyone has been this helpful, and once again our team of researchers has conducted a widespread assessment of Arab wealth. We initially looked at the names of nearly 500 companies and individuals, and began with a valuation of their assets.
In each case, a family or individual’s stake in a company has been obtained. We have then assessed the value of that company. Where this information is publicly available through stock exchanges, an exact figure has been obtained.
Where not, we have judged a company’s value in comparison to that of a similar but publicly-listed company in the same country, based on an equivalent price/earnings. Where no comparison is available, we have estimated the total value of all assets in a company, including those of its subsidiary operations that could in theory be separately sold.
Where sales and profit figures are available, we have assumed a very conservative price/earnings ratio of 10 in order to obtain a company’s valuation. All individual assets, such as property, cars and yachts have been estimated separately and added to an individual’s total.
Where an individual’s wealth is held largely in cash, we have assumed an annual increase based on the average interest rate for the past five years in the individual’s country of residence (though we accept funds may be held offshore — if anything therefore the estimate is likely to be conservative).
We have also added all share sales to the final figure, based on official stock exchange releases between 1999 and 2013. The value of land owned by individuals has been estimated based on average market values between December 2012 and November 2013.
We should state that the figures are purely our assessment of wealth. As always, our list does not include members of royal families or politicians. However, we have made an exception in cases where we believe the wealth has been amassed purely through business achievements (such as for Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal).
SOURCES OF INFORMATION:
Bloomberg; Dow Jones; Factiva.com; Reuters Business Briefing; Economic Intelligence Unit; Stock Exchanges from 21 countries; Forbes; Bloomberg Business Week; Sunday Times (UK); Fortune; The Economist; World Country Fact Book; Yahoo Finance; MSN; Google; UK Land Registry Records; US Land Registry; Ministry of Information (eleven countries); Hoovers Company Reports (228); Merrill Lynch Global Reports (86); Associated Press; Financial Times (UK); Los Angeles Times (USA); USA Today (USA); Global Stock Markets Factbook (Standard & Poor’s); Mena Development Report (Trade Investment and Development in the Middle East); Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Report.
Rich list researchers: Anil Bhoyrul, Ed Attwood, Shane McGinley, Daniel Shane, Courtney Trenwith, Beatrice Thomas, Edward Liamzon, Anees Dayoub, Fawzia Yasmineh, Samer Batter.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.