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Tue 30 Mar 2010 05:02 PM

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Sheikh Ahmed and the rise of ADIA

Sheikh Ahmed may be gone, but his legacy lives on at one of the world’s most powerful SWF players.

The tragic death of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in a glider accident in Morocco focused unprecedented global media attention onto a man who was ranked the 27th most powerful in the world last year by Forbes magazine.

It has also cast the spotlight on the company he headed, which some observers believe is key to Abu Dhabi’s growing power on the geopolitical stage.

Since joining the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) as a European equities analyst in 1991 and taking over as its head in 1997, Sheikh Ahmed played a starring role in the fund’s transformation into the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund (SWF) .

Chaired by the ruler of Abu Dhabi and UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, estimates as to the actual total amount invested in ADIA vary between $400bn and as much as $1 trillion.

A man known for his discretion, Sheikh Ahmed recently indicated that a figure of $800bn was “exaggerated”.

Since its inception 30 years ago, ADIA has committed itself to highly diversified assets across the world. It has also followed a strict policy not to invest at all in the UAE and rarely in the Gulf, leaving that to other local SWFs.

In a recent interview with German magazine Handelsblatt, Sheikh Ahmed offered a fascinating glimpse into the hitherto secretive world of ADIA, and revealed that between 35 and 50 percent of the fund’s assets were distributed in the US, with between 25 and 35 percent in Europe. Around 10 to 20 percent are based in Asia, with between 15 to 25 percent in the emerging markets segment.

Another key aspect of ADIA policy, and one which separates the fund from a number of other giant SWFs, is its avowed determination not to seek management roles in any of the companies in which it invests.

Most equity investments in publicly listed equities are typically less than five percent, and Sheikh Ahmed has confirmed that the recent economic downturn has not shifted the goalposts in that respect.

Sheikh Ahmed certainly one of the drivers behind a decision earlier this month to publish publicly an annual report. That report revealed for the first time key details about ADIA’s strategic asset allocation and, according to some analysts, is symptomatic of the authority’s new-found willingness to position itself as a global player.

The report’s publication also symbolised ADIA’s leading role in adhering to the Santiago Principles, a voluntary set of rules that some SWFs commit to in order to ensure an open international investment environment. Sheikh Ahmed may be gone, but his legacy lives on at one of the world’s most powerful SWF players.

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Imran Haq 10 years ago

My heartfelt condolonces to the Royal family on the untimely death of Sheikh Ahmed.

ANIS 10 years ago

We are very sad to hear the tragic death of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed, The Managing Director of ADIA and a Royal Family Member from Abu Dhabi. We pray to God that he give the strenght to all of his family members to bear this great loss with courage.

Abdul aziz.M.Q 10 years ago

My heartfelt condolonces to the Royal family on the untimely death of Sheikh Ahmed.

thameez 10 years ago

The greatest global personality of Financial world is no more. The man behind the success of ADIA. He not only kept his speech in discretion but also the company from the world. It came to the limelight very recently and now every common man knows what is ADIA?! A huge loss for UAE especially for Abu Dhabi. May his soul rest in peace and will pray for his thereafter.

georgy paul 10 years ago

condolence to death of sheikh ahmed. condolence to family and kids i lost my father at the age of 19 my condolence to the family

Kira International Korea 10 years ago

Our sincere condolences to the Abu Dhabi Royal Family on the untimely passed away of Sheikh Ahmed. from the deepest of our hearts KIRA INTERNATIONAL LTD SEOUL, KOREA

Itidal Hasoon 10 years ago

Our sincere condolences to the Abu Dhabi Royal Family and the UAE citizions on the untimely passed away of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Al Nahayan. from the deepest of our hearts Itidal Hasoon Cahirman of Iraqi Business Concil