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Sun 18 Dec 2011 10:35 AM

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World’s richest Arabs see wealth jump 5% in downturn

Super-rich see cash pile increase to $256.7bn despite year of global economic woes

World’s richest Arabs see wealth jump 5% in downturn
Saudi Arabia business

The world’s 50 richest Arabs have increased their personal wealth by nearly five percent to a combined value of $256.67bn, according to the Arabian Business Rich List 2011.

The total estimated value of those featured on the list has increased 4.6 percent from $245bn the previous year.

By far the biggest gainer this year is Kuwait’s Bukhamseen family, who have nearly doubled their wealth from $4bn to $7.25bn following a reevaluation of their assets. The family owns and runs the Bukhamseen Group, which has stakes in three regional banks, First Gulf Bank, Kuwait International Bank and Egyptian Gulf Bank.

The family-owned firm, founded by Jawad Ahmed Bukhamseen in 1957, is run by its Jawad’s sons Emad, Osama, Anwar and Raed. While its primary interest is financial investment and banking, it also has interests in hospitality, travel and tourism and civil engineering.

Kuwait International Bank, the Gulf state’s smallest bank by market value, in July said it may post a first first-half profit of KWD5.5m ($20m) compared with KWD5.03m a year ago, local media reported, quoting an unidentified people familiar with the matter.

KIB isn’t the only lender in the Bukhamseen portfolio to do well this year. Shares in the UAE-based First Gulf Bank have soared 12 percent since the lender raised the amount of shares foreigners can hold to 25 percent from 15 percent on Nov 29.

Overall, 19 entrants have increased their wealth, 18 have declined and four have remained the same.

Defying the credit crunch, the Middle East’s rich have continued to get richer, Merrill Lynch’s World Wealth Report 2011 said in June. The number of dollar millionaires in the region swelled by 10.4 percent in 2010, reflecting the fastest growth rate worldwide, to represent 400,000 people sitting on a cash pile of $1.7 trillion, the lender said.

Wealth for all five of this year’s wealth has increased. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed, who tops for the list for an eighth year running, saw his personal wealth rise by almost $1bn from $20.4bn last year to $21.3bn, a figure verified by his office.

The last 12 months has been a busy year for the Saudi Prince, who in addition to announcing his plans to build the world’s tallest tower, has also struck a deal with Bloomberg to launch his own news channel.

Number four on this year’s list, Saudi Arabia’s Issam Alzahid, has also verified his wealth, which has increased from $10bn to $10.7bn. Alzahid, the chairman of the Alzahid Group of Companies, has bucked the global downturn, growing his business by 14 percent in 2009. Despite concerns of economic woes in Europe and the US, Alzahid told Arabian Business he expects to increase the firm’s international investments by 23 percent next year.

Click here to view Arabian Business Rich List 2011

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