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Sun 17 Dec 2006 04:00 AM

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Best in business

Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and attended by HH Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a glittering event at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, the top achievers of the year were honoured at the Arabian Business Achievement Awards 2006.

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Sponsors Al Qudra enjoy the ceremony
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Andrew Neil, chairman of ITP
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His Highness Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Sheikh Fahad Hariri who collected a special award on behalf of his late father
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The winners line up.
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Hariri, Akawi and his Highness
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Mohammad Omran, chairman of Etisalat
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Bin Hendi and Mubarak bin Fahad, CEO of investment & development private office of HH Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
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Esam Janahi, CEO Gulf Finance House and Rateb Shalah, President of the Syrian Chamber of Commerce.
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HH Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Walid Akawi
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Sheikh Tareq Al Qassimi
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Sheikh Al Qassimi and Akawi
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Walid Akawi, CEO of ITP
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Sheikh Hariri and Walid Moneimne, MD of Nokia
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Businessman of the Year: Tawhid Abdullah, CEO of Damas

Abdullah modestly told Arabian Business that he was collecting the award on behalf of the chairman, deputy managing director and other staff at Damas and also thanked his inspiration — his late father. “It gives me great pleasure and honour to receive this award. On this occasion I also recall the memory of my late father, Mohammed Taher Abdullah, who helmed the company from 1945.

“His experience and vision provided remarkable inspiration over the years. This award belongs to each and every employee and business partner of Damas and this recognition will further inspire us to achieve excellence in all our activities.”

Damas has gone from strength to strength under his leadership and is now no longer seen as just a UAE or GCC company, but a global business empire.

Unlike most Dubai headquarters — more often than not located in glamorous penthouses on Sheikh Zayed Road — the Damas head office is situated in the heart of dusty Deira. But importantly it is in the gold souk — where the story of the jewellery retailing giant first began almost 100 years ago. Abdullah says it isn’t jewellery that gets him excited but “the business, the action, the buying, the selling and the making money.”

And make money, Damas does. In 2005 the UAE-based jewellery retailer made US$816m and out of that handsome figure, US$40.3m was profit. The sums are even more impressive considering that the price of gold is currently at a 25-year high.

This is one of the reasons that Damas has diversified its business into three sectors. These include jewellery and two other sectors that the public know less about — property and investment. “Each of the business sections is about a third of the operation. The property and investment sectors just make money. It is the jewellery section that holds the passion.” Last year was a good year - but, as Abdullah says, “every year has been a good year for Damas."

This recognition will further inspire us to achieve excellence in all our activities

Businesswoman of the Year: Dr Nahed Taher, CEO of Gulf One Investment Bank

Saudi Arabia’s Dr Nahed Mohammed Taher is the first ever female CEO of a Gulf bank, and she is also the founder of the Gulf One Investment Bank.

Prior to her current position Taher was a managing partner of Compass consulting, a financial advisory company, and a chief economist and chairman of Risk and Portfolio Management Committees at the National Commercial Bank in Jeddah. She also used to serve as a professor and head of the Economics Department at King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia.

Taher is ranked as no. 72 of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine, the highest of only four Arab women on the list.

Taher told Arabian Business at last week’s ceremony: “This (award) really means a lot to me, and it reassures me that my vision is true, and it’s appreciated by policy makers, politicians and economic analysts. I am an economist at heart, so I really wish to unleash the economic potential of this region. If we focus on combining the intellectual capital with our natural resources, that would be a winning portfolio formula that can take this region to the top of the global economy.”

She argued that the GCC needs to become more independent from the US economy. “Some 20 years ago we were a desert area that had just discovered oil as a major economic boost. But now we are shifting to be sophisticated, diverse economies that should not lean on other economies — especially in regards to the currency peg. We need to consider our alignment to the US dollar. Our trade pattern is shifting with high-speed to Asian and European markets and away from the US,” she said.

Taher is also known to be an outspoken advocate of women’s rights and for Saudi Arabia’s economic liberalisation and reform in order for it to meet the demands of the fast-growing population.

“The women in Saudi Arabia have long been contributing to the local economy, but mostly they did so informally by running businesses from home, since they could not register legally. The young generation is very open-minded, we have a lot of young female entrepreneurs that are well traveled and benefit from the globalisation. The economy also need the help of women, and the demand for female employees is high,” she pointed out.

“I always tell these girls: Don’t wait until it happens, make it happen. It is not true that the government does not support local women; I had a lot of support. My advice does not only apply to women — I am talking to our young men too, who suffer from high unemployment rates and low quality education in Saudi Arabia. I am unbiased in regards to sex, I will employ a potential candidate regardless if he is a man or a woman,” she added. “But Saudi women definitely need to live up to their full potential.”

Taher is also a member of a number of committees including the OECD-MENA region financial group, the Economic Committee of Mecca Al Mukaramah Region, the Saudi Economic Association, the Businesswomen’s Committee of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and the Small-Medium Enterprises Centre in the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, among others.

Saudi women definitely need to live up to their full potential

Entrepreneur of the Year: Moufaq Al Gaddah, CEO of MAG

In such a diverse and entrepreneurial region the judges at this year’s awards said that this particular category was one of the toughest to pick a winner, given the Middle East’s ability to “produce a number of outstanding entrepreneurs every year.”

They added that in all aspects of life and business Arabs have shown themselves to be great entrepreneurs and that this year, the judges decided to reward a man who through his own MAG Group in the past five years, has invested in over 12 different properties.

Moufaq Al Gaddah, who is chairman of Investment Group Overseas (IGO), an offshore investment and property development company, has been involved in a US$500m joint venture with UAE construction giant Emaar on a prestigious project in Syria entitled Eighth Gate. The development will include mixed-use residential, commercial and retail units and offer lifestyle choices never before seen in Syria. In October last year, the Syrian government and Emaar also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a second upcoming project in the capital.

Al Gaddah said at the time that he was “pleased to be partnering with Emaar to develop a master planned community of such quality.

“The Eighth Gate is a stunning example of capturing the feel of bygone days and blending it with the benefits of the new world. The project will truly add value to both Damascus and the country as a whole,” he added.

Abdulla Al Dardari, Syrian deputy prime minister, said that the launch of Eighth Gate marked an “exciting new chapter” in the history of the world’s oldest city, Damascus.

Mohamed Ali Alabbar, Emaar chairman, said that Damascus was “undoubtedly one of the greatest cities in the world” and that it was “a rare privilege” to be able to contribute to its evolution.

Eighth Gate will be located in the Yafour area, approximately 15 minutes from the centre of Damascus and builds on the ancient history of Damascus in its architectural style of ornately decorated buildings influenced by traditional Islamic design and pays homage to the city’s ancient roots. A signature tall gate marks the access to the main plaza.

Divided into three zones, the commercial centre, the waterfront and the residential zone, the development contains apartments and villas as well as a piazza, commercial tower, plaza and a 450,000 sq ft retail mall inspired by the souks of Damascus as well as high street shopping and al fresco dining. The project will include rows of fountains, landscaped gardens combined with interconnected courtyards and is expected to take approximately five years to complete.

The company was originally set up to provide a range of investments in different fields of business. The group is a strategic joint venture by an elite group of Syrian business leaders with a successful business history and combined experience of over 35 years. The partners at IGO have envisioned the company to be a leading force in the investment and property development industry in Syria, and around the region.

In all aspects of life and business Arabs have shown themselves to be great entrepreneurs

Small Business of the year: Patchi

After more than three decades of making delicious chocolates, Patchi has become one of the most popular chocolate brands, not only in Lebanon but also in the Middle East.

The man behind the Lebanon-based company that started in 1974 is Nizar Choucair. Choucair, a Lebanese businessman, started his career with a vision to grow a small business and took to expanding Beirut’s Hamra shopping district and transforming it into a fully-fledged empire spanning 33 countries around the globe.

Choucair then aimed to create a brand of fine chocolates based on the philosophy of ‘uncompromised quality’. Lebanese chocolate industry experts working at Patchi, watchfully take to maintaining quality control standards in the company, holding the idea that each piece of chocolate is a work of art.

As the brand started to take off, new special occasion products were launched in addition to a new line of table design and gift ornaments aimed to further enhance the company’s product range and support its main produce. Patchi's chocolates’ unusual wrapping and decorative handcrafted accessories gave the company a distinguishable identity from numerous other chocolate makers and in order to support its unique line of packaging, Patchi founded its own printing division.

Today with nine stores in Lebanon and over 100 other outlets in different parts of the world spanning the Ivory Coast, Europe, Canada and the United States, Patchi seems to have reached the height of its success, so landing an award at the Arabian Business Awards last week should not have come as big surprise.

“We are very happy to be chosen for this award among many other similar businesses in the UAE,” said Nabil Saadeh, general manger at Patchi. “It gives us a great push forward and further strengthens our belief in being on the right track and taking our products in the right direction,” he continued.

In addition to its chocolate factory, Patchi operates a silverware industry manufacturing a variety of tableware products including cups, trays and plates in a range of rich handmade designs. Furthermore, to add another touch of distinctiveness to its chocolate packages, Patchi’s Rose Factory presents a wide range of innovative artificial roses. Patchi also caters to special occasions with packages and gifts for Christmas, Ramadan, Diwali, Mother’s Day, Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha, Easter and Valentine’s Day.

Patchi also offers different collections directed at different consumer segments including Gourmandines and Patchino. All in all, its special ingredients and a collection of 52 product variations have made Patchi an internationally recognised confectionary business.

To further compliment its chocolate packages, Patchi presents its customers with an exclusive selection of crystal, porcelain, silverware presentation items and giftware from brands like Rosenthal, Versace, Bvulgari, Iceberg, and Christian Lacroix.

The brand is based on a philosophy of uncompromised quality

Award for social responsibility: Abdul Latif Jameel Technology Fund

Social responsibility is a subject that is growing in importance in the Middle East business community and the 2006 Arabian Business award proves a case in point.

This year the judges decided to recognise the Abdul Latif Jameel Technology Fund with the award being collected by Ibrahim Badawood (below right). The ALJ Group, a company with a diverse portfolio of business interests from the automotive to hospitality sectors, has focused on several programmes such as education and training, job creation and microfinance. The fund has given several Arab businessmen and women a platform from which to launch what have, over the years, become very successful ventures.

The Saudi-based group, that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has a variety of development programmes that serve as an example and model for all those who wish invest time, experience and resources into the community in the kingdom. ALJ puts emphasis on education, training, and development to assist younger generations to achieve independence and self-sustainability. It has also provided assistance to medical services for the benefit of the broader community, particularly those in remote areas of the kingdom.

Its ALJ Community Services Programmes, for example, established the ALJ Arab Technology Start Up Fund, which disperses dozens of grants annually. The new fund is aimed at encouraging start-up companies that develop industrial and commercial investments in the developing fields of nanotechnology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and information technology. Grants will be awarded as part of the activities of the respected Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF). This is the first Arab scientific organisation that links scientists from the Arab world to like-minded specialists in other countries, with the purpose of fostering science and technology within the Middle East. The primary purpose is to upgrade and promote scientific and technological development in Arab countries, as well as to create new job opportunities. Grants were issued at the beginning of the year, however one of the fund’s biggest achievements has been the significance of the ALJ grant, managed by the ASTF, giving vivid examples of the positive collaboration between scientists and the private sector, with the promise of a positive impact on the development of the Arab region.

The demand for funding of scientific research projects has increased throughout the year, according to the ASTF that manages the annual ALJ grant for funding scientific research and innovation in technology in the Arab world, sponsored by Abdul Latif Jameel Community Services Programmes. ASTF has received over 300 applications from 14 Arab countries and in 17 different scientific fields. By the end of this month the winning proposals will be revealed - and each winning proposal granted as much as US$50,000.

A similar project, entitled Seven Spires Investments Ltd, was established in 2003 as an angel investment fund with up to US$48m of private UK money. It seeks primarily to invest in early-stage, high-tech companies in the UK, such as university and industrial spinouts, as start-up ventures in the technology field.

The fund has given several Arab businessmen and women a platform from which to launch

Property company of the year: Emaar Properties

The judges called this category the “hardest fought of all”, and with the Arab world now home to many of the world’s most outstanding property companies in terms of market value, prestigious projects and profits, it is difficult not to agree. The panel, however felt that one company stood “head and shoulders” above the rest — Emaar Properties, the business behind the iconic Burj Dubai tower that has reached over 90 floors and rising.

2006 has been a big year for the Dubai property giant. Most significantly, the company underwent major overseas expansion investing in the UK, European, Asian and Arab markets, and achieving annual profits of over US$1bn.

Over the last 12 months the business has also raised its profile as a global business, becoming well-known in the world’s key financial marketplaces of New York and London. Emaar has also made strategic acquisitions and entered into international joint ventures. It acquired John Laing Homes, the second largest privately held homebuilder in the US, and Hamptons International, the premier UK real estate company. It also joined hands with Turner Corporation, a leading international building services provider, to form a new entity — Turner International Middle East — to jointly tap growth opportunities.

The award is the company’s fourth consecutive prize this year for overall excellence, winning the property company of the year at the Arabian Business Awards 2006, best real estate brand in the GCC by the Middle East Excellence Institute, best developer in the UAE and Egypt by Euromoney and developer of the year by Construction Week, also an ITP publication.

His Highness Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Department of Planning and Economy and Chairman of General Holding Company, presented the award to Ahmad Al Matrooshi, UAE managing director at Emaar Properties, at the gala ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

Collecting the award, Matrooshi said that 2006 had been an “exemplary year” for Emaar in terms of peer-group, industry and public recognition. “These laurels underscore our pursuit of excellence in all endeavours and reinforce our commitment to the end-users — thousands of home-owners in Dubai.

“Emaar is now on an expansion and diversification drive, which is in line with our Vision 2010 to become one of the most valuable companies in the world. We have expanded to more than 15 countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Libya, Jordan, Pakistan and India.

“Apart from property development, we have also identified five key growth sectors — education, retail, healthcare, hospitality and finance,” Matrooshi added. Emaar has handed over more than 14,500 homes in Dubai. Currently, Emaar is building its flagship project — the US$20bn Downtown Burj Dubai, with the Burj Dubai at its centre point, which will be the tallest tower in the world when completed in 2008. The company recently announced that its net profits for the three quarters ended 30 September 2006 reached US$1.268bn — a significant gain of 26% over the same period in 2005 — reflecting the remarkable growth the company has gained since its inception in 1997.

Emaar stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Financial Institution of the Year: Mubadala Development Company

Established in October 2002 Mubadala Development Company is a wholly owned investment company of the Government of Abu Dhabi. Its mandate is the establishment of new companies and the acquisition of stakes in existing companies, either in the UAE or abroad, to support the emirate’s economic growth. Investment sectors include energy, utilities, real estate, public-private partnerships, basic industries and services.

Among the firm’s top acquisitions are the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (100%), the Abu Dhabi Terminals (100%), the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (100%), the UAE University PPP (100%), Dolphin Energy (51%), Emirates Integrated Telecommunication Company du (20%), ALDAR Properties (5%), besides their international acquisitions in the Dutch Lease Plan Corporation (25% stake), carmaker Ferrari (5%), and a stake in nine oil exploration blocks in Libya, to name a few.

Mubadala together with the with Dubai Aluminium Company develops a US$6bn aluminium smelter complex with 1.2 million tonne capacity a year at the Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone in Abu Dhabi.

Currently Mubadala and the German construction group Hochtief are reportedly together bidding to develop airports in Jordan and Tunisia. The joint venture is supposedly looking to manage airports in the Middle East and North Africa.

In cooperation with MGM Mirage, the Group aims to tap the hospitality sector, and is keen to develop luxury non-gaming hotels and resorts around the world. Destinations include Abu Dhabi, Las Vegas and the UK. MGM Mirage currently owns and operates 23 properties in Nevada, Mississippi and Michigan.

Mubadala is moreover running several social responsibility programmes.

Last month the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, wholly-owned by Mubadala, signed an agreement with Shell to jointly develop projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting emission reduction credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol.

ADFEC and Shell will target CDM projects focusing on energy and industry in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

In July the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company launched Masdar Research Network — a global research network to develop alternative technologies for advanced energy and environmental solutions. The Masdar Research Network has pulled together programmes from leading universities and institutes from Asia, Europe, and North America to create innovations in new energy technologies and natural resource-sustaining systems.

In November Mubadala together with General Electric (GE) also initiated an executive learning centre in the capital — focused on providing advanced management and business leadership programmes to professionals in the UAE and the GCC. Mubadala will build the legal and physical infrastructure and pick potential candidates for the conduct of the project while GE will design the programmes and provide training and moderation.

His Excellency Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, CEO and Managing Director of Mubadala Development, said “Mubadala’s core vision is generating sustainable economic benefits to the society through strategic investments — not only in utilities, energy and real estate but also in educational partnerships. With its topnotch professional workforce, GE is an ideal partner in this initiative.”

Our core vision is generating sustainable economic benefits to society

Bank of the year: Gulf Finance House

The banking and finance sector continues to be one of the biggest spending and largest earning industries in the Middle East, and 2006 has been no exception with a vast array of world-class financial institutions achieving record profits and creating innovative products, projects and deals throughout the region.

At this year’s awards, however, the judges decided to recognise the performance of a Bahrain-based bank, which in just six years has accomplished more than many have in 60.

Over its short six-year operational lifespan Gulf Finance House (GFH), a ground-breaking and innovative Sharia-compliant investment bank, has successfully launched projects and investments with an aggregate final value exceeding US$10bn with its young CEO star performer and board member, Esam Janahi leading the business’s exceptional growth in the regional and, increasingly, international marketplaces.

Bahraini-born Janahi is one of the youngest, most powerful and fastest rising Arab bankers on the planet and has been responsible for leading the way in some of the region’s largest and most crucial mega real estate and infrastructure projects. This significant feat in such a short period of time was made possible by the participation of a broad base of investors from across the GCC.

In a ground-breaking measure GFH was one of the first GCC banks to focus on private equity investments in companies based in the Gulf and other MENA countries.

GFH has won high acclaim among regional and global investors for its pioneering Sharia-compliant regional and global investments that provide new growth opportunities to Islamic investors. The bank has and continues to play a leading role in investment advisory, infrastructure investment, property funds, private equity, venture capital and asset management. Most importantly, it is always hungry and feeds on developing its own growth as well as that of the region from where it originated.

Since its creation, GFH has financed some of the most important, forward-thinking developments in the Middle East, including the US$1.4bn Bahrain Financial Harbour; the US$1bn-plus Al Areen Development in Bahrain; the US$1bn-plus Royal Metropolis and Jordan Gate projects in Amman; the US$1.4bn Gateway to Morocco; the US$3.8bn trio of Legends theme parks in the under-construction Dubailand; the US$2.6bn Energy City in Qatar; invested a significant sum within the gigantic Prince Abdul Aziz bin Mousaed Economic City in Saudi Arabia and committed a serious sum to the transportation infrastructure in Egypt alongside the Egyptian government.

On receiving the award, Janahi told Arabian Business that 2006 had been a “very successful year” for GFH, starting with the bank successfully concluding a rights issue and increasing the total capital to US$391m from US$181m. “Additionally, following our announced global ambitions at the beginning of the year, GFH also successfully entered India, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Qatar through the launch of significant infrastructure projects in these countries,” he added.

Janahi is one of the youngest, most powerful and fastest rising Arab bankers on the planet

IT company of the year: Microsoft Gulf

IT Company of the Year was one of the most fiercely contested categories at this year’s awards. The winner, after much deliberation, was the Gulf division of the world’s most famous IT firm, Microsoft. The judges agreed unanimously that Microsoft Gulf has had an outstanding 12 months.

“For us this is a recognition of the work our people have been doing in the Gulf,” said Charbel Fakhoury, general manager at Microsoft Gulf. “Today, we have offices in every country, and our employees’ mission is to really make a difference for the people they work with.

“This covers companies, governments, education, and whole communities,” he continued. “The award is a thank you to all of our employees, and an appreciation of their efforts in bringing technology to enable businesses, people and communities to be able to engage and to be able to play a role in the new digital economy.”

Microsoft Gulf opened its Dubai-based headquarters in 1991. Microsoft Gulf today oversees Microsoft activities in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, the UAE and Yemen and is one of four subsidiaries in the region, the others being Microsoft Arabia covering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Microsoft East Med covering Lebanon, Jordan, Cyprus and Malta and Microsoft Egypt.

The launch last month of Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 to businesses across the region mark Microsoft’s most significant launches in eleven years and will deliver on Microsoft’s strategy of fostering a people-ready business to its customers. Recent expansion in the region includes the opening of the first Microsoft Innovation Centre (MIC) in Kuwait in partnership with National Technology Enterprises Company (NTEC).

“Microsoft and its employees are very delighted to be recognised with this award, in being a local contributor to Gulf citizens, companies, and countries in their ambition to realize their potential,” added Fakhoury. “Today software helps students and teachers learn and innovate in ways they never imagined. Today governments are delivering citizen services online, companies collaborating, communicating and servicing their customer anytime, anywhere, and from any device.

“All of this makes us passionate about the great innovation Microsoft is bringing to Arab world in the Arabic language, through employees who live and work in the same society.”

Fakhoury has been with the company since 1998 and in this time he has been instrumental in the opening of offices in both Jordan and Cyprus.

Walid Akawi, CEO of ITP, said: “Once again, there has been great competition for this category. I-Mate, Samsung, HP and many others have had a very successful year."

“Yet the judges felt that 2006 belonged to the world’s best-known IT company, Microsoft. Last month saw the launch of Windows Vista, a product that will take Microsoft to even greater heights next year.”

We are passionate about the great innovation microsoft is bringing to the arab world in the arabic language

Telecom Company of the Year: Nokia

The leading provider of mobile phones in the region, and the number one telecommunications brand in the region, Nokia has enjoyed stellar success in the Middle East over the last 12 months.

Accepting the award, Dr Walid Moneimne, managing director at Nokia, said: “This award is a great honour, and a significant recognition of our efforts in this region. We have made an incredible effort to serve the technology needs of this market, one of the fastest-growing and most sophisticated in the world.”

The year began strongly, as Nokia sealed a US$190m managed services and network deal, with the UAE’s second telco, du. The agreement will enable the country to offer customers some of the most sophisticated and cutting edge technology currently available.

“To be selected from among all of the world’s telecommunications companies gives us further incentive to continue the effort we have made so far,” added Dr. Moneimne. “We fully intend to continue to give to the consumers of the Middle East the highest level of quality they have come to expect and enjoy. The future will bring renewed efforts not only to maintain our position as an award winning market leader, but to give our customers the most advanced and most efficient technology possible.”

Additionally, Nokia Network’s launch of the Flexi EDGE Base Station has allowed the company to provide operators with a compact and powerful platform to deploy high quality networks with minimized operating and capital expenditures.

Moreover, the firm has also supplied 3G radio and core network technology to Saudi Arabia’s Etihad Etisalat Company. Together, the launch of the base station and the supplying of the most advanced technology to one of KSA’s fastest growing phone companies, has put Nokia at the forefront of transitioning the Middle East to true mobile convergence.

“For us this award is an extremely good recognition of all the efforts we have been putting into our investment in the region,” continued Dr Moneimne. “We have been implementing quite an aggressive investment strategy across all countries in the Middle East, and we have more than doubled our business in the Middle East in this year, compared to last year.”

Nokia Networks now provides infrastructure and managed services to over 12 operators in the region, and employs a rapidly expanding workforce that currently numbers over 1000 people.

The Finnish giant has offices in the UAE, Saudi, Iran, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, Pakistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal, Lagos, Tunisia, and Algeria. Nokia has relationships with 135 distributors covering 96% of Middle Eastern and African markets, and more than 400 service points including 50 main Customer Centres across the MENA region.

We have more than doubled our business in the Middle East in this year, compared to last year

Retail Company of the Year: Alshaya Group

With the Dubai Shopping Festival scheduled to open next week and seasonal festivities gearing up, the regional retail industry is preparing itself for its busiest time of the year. And what a year it has been for one company in particular — the Alshaya Group headed up by chairman Mohammed Al Shaya.

“This is a great honour. It is an award not just for me but for all our employees across the world," Al Shaya told Arabian Business. There appears to be no stopping the expansion of the group, which earlier this year clinched the lucrative franchises for Swedish clothing giant H&M and UK high-street chemist Boots, which opened several outlets across the UAE. Having built on the success of its Starbucks brand, Alshaya is now fast expanding across Eastern Europe and other parts of the Middle East and is shortly expected to announce the winning of a major food retailing franchise for the region.

Boots has been a particular success story with the expatriate market, re-discovering one of its favourite high street brands in the UAE and across other parts of the Middle East. Boots Kuwait Airport is now open along with a store in the Souq Sharq, with more Boots stores set to open throughout Kuwait and the UAE in the near future. Mohamed Al Shaya said that “nothing like Boots currently existed in the Middle East” and he was right.

“Boots is the number one health and beauty retailer in the UK, with a 30% market share. I am sure that our customers in Kuwait and the region will love discovering the excellent service and brands, including No 7 and Botanics that Boots has to offer.”

Andy Powell, regional manager for the GCC for Boots Retail International, said he was thrilled to partner with the Alshaya Group. “We believed it was the right time for Boots to enter the GCC market and we associate the success of this project with a great choice of our GCC partner.”

“Alshaya possesses outstanding local market expertise and operates a broad range of internationally renowned brands, plus its business model compliments the ambitions of Boots,” he added.

Mohammed Al Shaya has become one of the world’s most powerful Arabs by securing many of the top retail franchises on the planet, and bringing them to the Gulf. Registered as the 16th most powerful Arab in the world, he employs over 7000 people, and owns franchises in the region for some of the world’s biggest brands, including Starbucks, Debenhams and Top Man. A massive expansion plan for the year ahead is underway, with 400 new store openings in the pipeline. Russia, Turkey and Poland are latest countries to fall under the Alshaya umbrella.

One of the chairman’s main objectives is to make a difference and he is certainly achieving his goal. Arguably his company is having a bigger impact on the world’s retail industry today than at any time since it was formed in 1890.

The arrival of Swedish retailer H&M in the Gulf is a first for the region and a positive move into the lucrative low cost shopping sector.

Back in 1985 the group had just four stores in retailing, preferring car dealerships and real estate. Today, the 45 year-old runs more than 600 franchise stores.

There appears to be no stopping the expansion of the group

Manufacturing Company of the Year: Aujan Industries

Aujan Industries is the largest privately owned beverage company in the GCC, with brand marketing, manufacturing, sales and distribution capabilities within the beverages and confectionery categories for proprietary and third party brands in the Middle East. The firm is one of the top 100 companies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with this year’s sales touching US$360m — almost double the 2004 figure. Profits have risen by 28% over the last year and the company is in talks with bankers over a likely US$1bn flotation on the Saudi stock market next year.

“It’s a great honour to be in Abu Dhabi to collect this award,” said Aujan Industries chairman Adel Al Aujan. “I spend a lot of my time in Johannesburg and other places, but when I was informed of this award I made sure I would be available to collect it in person. But the award is not for me, it is for the company and the staff that have done so much over the last few years.”

Today, Aujan Industries has operations in 12 regional locations, with more than 2200 employees and brand presence in over 25 countries within the GCC, North Africa, Iran, Iraq, Levant, and Central Asia. Aujan boasts the popular Barbican, Rani, Vimto, and Hani brands, as well a long association with leading international brands such as 3 Diamonds, POM, Lipton Ice Tea, Wrigley’s, Cadbury, Canada Dry and, more recently, Base energy systems.

Aujan Industries has embraced the future with a clearly defined vision and strategy model, entitled ‘Aujan 555’. Quite simply, ‘Aujan 555’ means making US$500m in 5 years with 5 brands. The model requires a major strategic, operational and cultural transformation within the business, and is designed to embrace the future with the appropriate management structure, investment in manufacturing and distribution systems, as well as the development of valued people.

Aujan’s commitment to the future — and to the region — is borne out by the construction of a state of the art US$55m manufacturing plant at Dubai Investment Park. This facility will complement Aujan’s existing facilities in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. With a current annual capacity of over 300 million litres and/or 1 billion packages, the new Dubai Investment Park facility will allow Aujan Industries the scope to boost production capacity by more than 50%. Iran has also been targeted for new growth, with a US$100m investment into a can making factory in Tehran.

“We have invested a considerable amount of money in the new plant in Tehran, which will make our manufacturing process even more efficient," continued Al Aujan. “I think this award recognizes that.”

With the planned expansion into new, high-potential markets outside the GCC, strategic alliances with other international brands, continuous brand/product development, innovative packaging designs, powerful consumer communication, an evolving direct distribution business system, and ongoing enhancements in manufacturing capabilities, Aujan is expected to consolidate and expand its market share and presence in the Middle East and beyond.

The award is for the company and the staff that have done so much over the last few years

Outstanding Contribution to Middle East Development: Rafik Hariri

The late Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon, was honoured for his ‘Outstanding Contribution to Middle East Development' with the award collected by his son Sheikh Fahad Hariri.

The judges revealed that they had first intended to honour Hariri for his role in the Middle East in 2004, but the former Lebanese PM was unable to attend the ceremony that year — having promised to be there in 2005.

However he was tragically assassinated in February 2005, but according to ITP CEO Walid Akawi, it was important that the award was still made, posthumously. “I felt it was our duty to make this award, and tonight we have done so. It makes me very proud,” said chief executive Akawi.

After collecting the award on behalf of his late father, Sheikh Fahad Hariri told Arabian Business: “I am hugely honoured to receive this award. It is something my father would have been very proud of.

Throughout his life he did everything he could to improve the way of life in the region — be it through his work in business or politics. I hope that we can carry on the work he started.”

Hariri began his business career in Saudi Arabia when he successfully completed a conference centre in Taif in 1977 in record time. This ultimately led to a long and trusting relationship with the ruling family of Saudi Arabia and specifically the late King Fahad. Hariri then employed much of the wealth he generated from his contracting activities into financial holdings.

He invested not only in two leading French banks, but also joining one of the world’s largest construction firms, Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC), founded by Palestinian and Lebanese businessmen Hassib Sabbagh, Said Khoury and Kamel Abdul-Rahman. He subsequently set up Saudi Oger Group in 1978 (after merging his company Sekonest, with French company Oger). Today the company is a diversified construction company. In addition to being engaged in building, construction and maintenance, the group is also vested in telecoms services and has interests in Turkey and South Africa, as well having printing and publishing operations.

The Hariri family are also now Jordan’s largest real estate property investors and rank among the top foreign investors with a diversified portfolio. The family is currently involved in a US$600m Saraya luxury real estate project in Jordan, developed by the families’ group of companies led by Saudi Oger. Oger’s first real estate project in Jordan, Al Abdali, is a US$1bn joint venture partnership with the government, which is now under construction to develop the capital’s downtown area.

Aside from Saudi Oger, Hariri’s other legacy as a statesman and businessman was that he played a pivotal role in ending the 15-year Lebanese civil war and spearheaded the reconstruction of the country. He helped set up Solidere, the property company that revived the commercial centre of Beirut. The family also owns the Future TV station in Lebanon and has interests in a number of Saudi banks and media groups.

Hariri played a pivotal role in ending the 15-year Lebanese civil war
Judging Panel 2006

Walid Akawi CEO, ITP

Mohammad H Omran Chairman, Etisalat

Helal Al Marri Director General, Dubai World Trade Centre

Joseph Hanania Managing Director, HP Middle East

Alex Andarakis CEO, Aujan Industries

Charbel Fakhoury General Manager Director, Microsoft

Dr Walid Moneimne Managing Director, Nokia

Dr Amina Al Rostamani CEO, Dubai Media City

Tahwid Abdullah Chairman, Damas Group

Anas Kozbari CEO, Invest Group Overseas

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