Saudi stars

Anil Bhoyrul looks at the 10 biggest names in the Kingdom when it comes to power, success and wealth.
Saudi stars
By Anil Bhoyrul
Sun 15 Jul 2007 12:00 AM

Anil Bhoyrul looks at the 10 biggest names in the Kingdom when it comes to power, success and wealth.

HRH Prince Alwaleed
Chairman, Kingdom Holding

When it comes to power, success and influence, there is no one bigger than 52 year-old Prince Alwaleed, a nephew of the late HRH King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

Top of the Arabian Business Power List and Rich List, he has long guarded a glittering investment portfolio which includes stakes in dozens of blue-chip companies, including Citigroup in which he owns a 4.3% stake worth approximately US$10bn, Apple Computers, Canary Wharf, and Disneyland Paris.


You know 95% of African countries are okay... and there’s an opportunity that people aren’t seeing.

The Prince is the largest individual foreign investor in the US and, via his 5.46% stake in News Corporation, is one of the world's most influential Arab businessmen. He also owns several other companies in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Gulf. Earlier last year Prince Alwaleed floated 25% of his Kingdom Hotels Investments in London and Dubai, giving the hospitality company a US$1.6bn market capitalisation, although the order book was 14 times oversubscribed and raised around US$6bn in demand. As Arabian Business went to press the Prince was preparing to sell 5% of his main investment vehicle, Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), to Saudi nationals in an initial public offering that values the billionaire investor's company at US$17.2bn.

KHC, which had US$24bn in assets at the end of 2006, will offer 315 million existing shares at 10.25 Saudi Riyals (US$2.73) each, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) said. And now, the next ‘big thing' is Africa.

Prince Alwaleed describes the continent as "still sleeping" but reveals that last year he made a staggering 120% return on his investments there. If it's so good though, why haven't other companies leapt at the chance to invest?

"There is a syndrome. Some African countries are not very stable - maybe two or three. But unfortunately people in the world amalgamate the whole African continent with one incident or one problem. They say all Africa is not doing good. Okay, Zimbabwe has a problem. Burundi has a problem. But Senegal is excellent. Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique - you know, 95% of African countries are okay; there is no problem at all. And there is an opportunity that people aren't seeing," he says.

Dr Nahed Taher
CEO, Gulf One Investment Bank

Gulf One is a Bahrain-headquartered bank with an authorised capital of US$1bn. Dr Nahed Taher is the first Saudi woman to head a bank in the Gulf region.

She was first recognised as a senior economist at the National Commercial Bank, making her the first woman to hold such a position in a bank in Saudi Arabia.

Dr Taher holds a Master's Degree in international economics as well as a PhD in economics from University of Lancaster, UK. She has a vast knowledge in the field of economics and financial analysis and has held numerous senior positions both in academia and the private sector.

Before joining NCB, she worked as a lecturer and later as the head of the accounting unit at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. From 1987 until 2002, Dr Taher acted as a financial advisor to a number of Saudi companies. She later joined the National Commercial Bank (NCB) in 2002 where she became a senior strategic economist and led the bank's Portfolio Management Committee.

Dr Taher is also known for her extensive knowledge in the field of international economics and has participated in numerous global economic forums across the world. She is a member of the Saudi Economic Association, Centre for Strategic Studies of Mekkah, Business Women Committee and the Eisenhower Fellowship in Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, Gulf One's mission parallels that of its founder. Dr Taher believes in the immense investment potential of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) infrastructure projects and private equity investment.

Gulf One's financial products and services are currently focusing on mega-energy and infrastructure investments worth US$1 trillion over the next 10 years. In addition, the bank provides sound services in restructuring and mergers and acquisitions.
The Al Rajhi Family
Owners, Al Rajhi Bank

The four brothers, Saleh bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi, Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi and Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi make up one of the most respected families in Saudi Arabia.


Prospects for the bank have continued to excel due to the demand for Islamic financial services in Saudi Arabia.

Al Rajhi is a Riyadh-based Islamic bank and a major investor in the Kingdom's business markets. Originally founded as a joint stock company in 1987, Al Rahji is today the world's largest Islamic bank with a paid-up capital of US$2bn as well as one of the oldest and most established financial institutions in Saudi Arabia.

The bank is currently 99% owned by Saudi shareholders, but the founding Al Rajhi family significantly continues to hold a key stake and remains the corporation's primary equity holders.

The Al Rajhi family is considered by many in Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom's wealthiest non-royals, and ranks among the world's leading philanthropists.

Its core business in Saudi Arabia is in wholesale, retail, commercial and investment banking, all of which are guided by Sharia principles. The bank accounts for 600 branches in Saudi Arabia, 1400 automated teller machines (ATM) and over 8000 merchant terminals.

With these assets, Al Rajhi Bank is considered as one of the largest banking corporations in the Kingdom after Saudi American Bank and Riyadh Bank.

It began with a capital base of US$225m, which was then increased to US$1.35bn (March 2005) then, after a year, it rose to US$2.03bn (March 2006) and finally to an impressive US$4.05bn (March 2007).

Prospects for the bank have continued to excel due to the demand for Islamic financial services in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region in general.

Al Rajhi took two years to open its first branch in Malaysia after being awarded a licence in 2004 by Bank Negara. Al Rajhi is also the second of three foreign banks that were awarded Islamic banking licences by the Central Bank of Malaysia.

It is currently targeting the automotive sector, pushing hard on car leases. Consequently, it recently opened car showrooms across the country as part of an initiative aimed at increasing its lease-to-buy business.

Mohammed Bin Issa Al Jaber
Chairman, MBI Group

Al Jaber is the Saudi tycoon who heads up the MBI International group of companies that, between them, are worth US$3bn.

It is believed that his stake is around the 50% mark. What isn't in doubt, however, is the success of MBI. It now includes real estate giant Jadawel International, JJW Hotels & Resorts which operates 55 hotels in Europe and the Middle East as well as the AJWA Group, one of the largest food companies in the Middle East.

JJW Hotels posted a massive leap in turnover and profits last year, which it claims put it on target to join the world's top luxury hoteliers.

During 2005, turnover grew by 78% to US$153.9m and there was a steep growth in pre-tax profits to US$20m as the company reaped the benefits of its expansion progress in recent years. The chains' expansion is expected to continue this year, in particular in the UK, with US$257m earmarked for capital.

The golf-loving Al Jaber also bought the UK's Scotsman Hotel Group last year, reportedly attracted by the Scotsman's upmarket quirky style. Around US$250m is believed to have been earmarked to bring a portfolio of intimate luxury hotels to key European cities.

Mohammed Bin Issa Al Jaber would be even richer but for the cash he has given to various charities over the years.

He has funded scholarship programmes at some of the world's finest and most high-profile educational institutions.

The founding sponsor of London Middle East Institute at the London-based School of Oriental and African Studies, he has also given a generous donation to a new building at the Jeddah-based Dar El Hekmah College, an English-language, private sector women's liberal arts college. He has also been a promoter of Arab-Israeli reconciliation, including through the Olive Tree Educational Trust at London University.
Abdullah Al Zamil
Zamil Industries

Abdullah Al Zamil leads the hugely successful Saudi-based Al Zamil group, one of the Kingdom's largest private enterprises, spanning diversified industrial and commercial interests.

This covers everything from the manufacturing of air-conditioning units to food processing, steel fabrication and travel services. There is also a banking and investment division, bringing the total number of employees to 8000. The family has a 25% stake in the Bahrain-based Energy Centre Company. This could prove a huge windfall given the region's growing power demands, with the stake adding US$200m to the family's wealth.

The group was founded by the late HRH Sheikh Abdullah Al-Hamad Al Zamil, a Saudi Arabian entrepreneur, who established a modest trading entity selling food and textiles in the Kingdom of Bahrain in the 1930s.

Later, he expanded his business successfully into real estate investments in Saudi Arabia. Zamil Group's board of directors now comprises 12 sons, led by chairman Mohammed and director Abdul Rahman, the latter also sits on the King's 90-strong advisory council. Khalid Al Zamil is a director of Gulf Navigation Holding which will soon be listed on the Dubai Financial Market (DFM).

The group's Saudi International Petrochemicals is capitalised at US$13bn, its National Power Company at US$55m and its low-cost airline Menajet that has yet to launch successfully is worth US$50m. Shares in another venture, Sahara Petrochemicals rose 230% on the Saudi stock exchange when it was floated in 2005. But the group's real wealth lies in several other ventures, notably the Zamil Industrial Investment division which exports to 70 markets worldwide.

Al Zamil Industrial Investment Company will spend more than US$80m to expand its business in prefabricated steel buildings in the UAE, Egypt and Asia this year. The value of the overall GCC market alone is US$1bn, or 500,000 tonnes of steel buildings produced yearly.

Al Zamil's under construction factory in Ras Al Khaimah will begin with a production capacity of 30,000 tonnes, with plans to ramp up output in the future.

The division announced a net profit of US$25.9m for the first half of this year, an increase of 83.2% over the same period in 2005. Total turnover for the first half of this year was US$356m, an increase of US$38.2m, representing 12% growth over the same period in 2005.

Abdallah Jum'ah
President and CEO, Saudi Aramco

As head of Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil company by production, Abdallah Jum'ah effectively manages a quarter of the world's reserves.

The government-owned firm has a monopoly on the oil supplies of the oil-rich country and with crude prices likely to stay sky-high, Jum'ah is playing an increasingly prominent role on the world stage.

Jum'ah joined Saudi Aramco in 1968, becoming head of the company in late 1995. As the largest oil company in the world, Saudi Aramco has operations that span the globe, reaching into every area of oil industry and achieved revenues of US$3bn last year.

A dark cloud on the horizon however, continues to be the escalation in attacks on Westerners that could lead to an exodus of expatriate oil workers, threatening the oil industry of the whole Kingdom.

HRH Sheikh Waleed Al Ibrahim
Chairman, MBC

MBC was launched in 1991 and became the first broadcaster to launch a free-to-air 24-hour network across the Arab world. MBC was the first-ever, independent Arabic satellite TV station and a market leader, delivering news and quality family entertainment programming to more than 130 million Arabic speaking people around the world.

Sheikh Al Ibrahim continues to be at the forefront of the network's development.
Baker Bin Ladin
Chairman, Bin Ladin Group

The Bin Ladin Construction Group is one of the Kingdom's biggest companies with estimated assets of around US$6.5bn. The Bin Ladin Construction Group was founded by Mohammed Bin Ladin, Baker and Osama's father, in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah in the 1950s.

The group grew into one of the major companies in the oil-rich Kingdom when it was entrusted by the Royal Court to expand the Islamic holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

The Bin Ladin Construction Group has also built several palaces in Saudi's two principal cities in Riyadh and Jeddah for members of the Saudi Royal family, as well as carrying out large amounts of restoration work following an arson attack on Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque in 1969.

HRH Prince Saud Bin Abdullah Bin Thunayan Al Saud
Chairman, SABIC

Prince Saud Bin Abdullah Bin Thunayan Al Saud currently holds the position of chairman for the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu in addition to holding key board positions in Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC), Utility Water & Electricity Company in Jubail and Yanbu, Royal Family Board and also at Prince Salman's Social Centre.

Prince Saud graduated from the King Saud University in 1977 with a degree in civil engineering after which he started his career as an engineer at Riyadh Municipality in Saudi Arabia.

He then took on the position of director general for survey and drawings followed by operation and maintenance. In 1989 he was assigned the position of under-secretary for planning and programmes at the Ministry of Municipality & Rural Affairs.

He is also a member of several committees formed by a Royal Decree to regulate the needs of Al-Jouf, Jizan, the northern border and Hail areas in Saudi Arabia, in addition to the villages and areas in the western coast and the needs of the people of Yanbu Governorates. Hail will be the location for one of Saudi's six planned economic cities.

In addition, Prince Saud is a member of a joint committee that supervises the coordination and follows work between the Ministry of Municipality and Rural Affairs, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Agriculture and the Higher Committee for Childhood.

Al Saud is also a regular participant in a number of forums and scientific seminars throughout the Kingdom and abroad, and has previously presented a number of research papers and work pages in economic, industrial and investment affairs.

Lubna Olayan
Chief Executive, Olayan Financing Company

For several years, Lubna Olayan has been one of Saudi Arabia's most prominent businesswomen.

Olayan's company now operates and actively participates in more than 40 companies, often in partnership with leading multinationals. OFC is also one of the largest investors in the Saudi Arabian equity market. No wonder both Forbes and Time magazines have named Olayan as one of the world's most influential women in the past year. At the Jeddah Economic Forum in 2004, Olayan gave a speech reminiscent of Martin Luther King's ‘I have a dream'.

"My vision is of a country with a prosperous and diversified economy in which any Saudi citizen, irrespective of gender who is serious about finding employment, can find a job in the field for which he or she is best qualified, leading to a thriving middle class and in which all citizens or visitors feel safe and can live in an atmosphere where mutual respect and tolerance exist among all, regardless of their social class, religion or gender."

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