Sunday, December 16, 2007

Twenty-five shaping tomorrow’s world of Mid East Biz

For the past four years The Times has researched, collated and published the Power 100, a list of the most influential business leaders working in quoted UK companies. As part of this week’s wide-ranging business coverage from Dubai, the model has been adapted to map the network of rich, powerful and influential business people working in the Gulf today.

Of necessity, given the diversity of talent and the scarcity of statistical data, the GulfPower25 is more qualitative than quantitative. It is a Who’s Who of those who lead or control business in the Middle East. It covers countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council trading bloc - Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. It makes no claims to be the last word on rich, powerful, influential and entrepreneurial people in the region. The names and faces driving the Gulf economy have changed and will continue to change. This list will be posted on Times Online, where it will be updated to take account of readers’ comments. The personalities, and their rankings, will change in the light of convincing contributions.


1 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is the ruler of Dubai, whose vision is fuelling the frenetic development of the city and spurring the transformation of the Gulf. He is also Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai in one emirate. Sheikh Mohammed owes his wealth to oil, but conscious that the reserves on his patch of land are relatively small, he has broadened the economic base into property, ports and airports, leisure and financial services. Sheikh Mohammed heads our list because he is powerful, influential and rich. However, it is his role as the catalyst for change in the region that sets him apart. Sheikh Mohammed appears acutely aware of the opportunities, and more willing than most to combat threats that have prompted other Middle East leaders to impede, or halt, the process of reform.


2 King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Saudia Arabia, thanks its geographical size, its relatively large population of 27 million, and its enormous reserves of oil, will ultimately determine the future of the Gulf. Saudi Arabia sits on about a quarter of the world’s oil reserves, is a crucial trading partner and a significant, albeit cautious, force in dispute-settlement in the Middle East.

Like Dubai, it is beginning to move beyond oil in its dealings with the global economy. It is fostering a domestic stock market and establishing rules for a more dynamic corporate environment. King Abdullah is, no doubt, the most powerful man in the Middle East, but he is still to put his country’s wealth and human capital to work.


3 Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan is the President of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of Abu Dhabi, but, perhaps more importantly, is chairman of one of the world’s biggest investment funds – the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. ADIA has assets estimated to be in excess of £200 billion and which may be as much as £400 billion. It is highly secretive, but, within the global fund management industry, is highly regarded. Abu Dhabi sits on 95 per cent of the oil and gas reserves in the UAE and 9 per cent of the world’s proven hydrocarbon reserves.


4 Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thaniis chairman and chief executive of the Qatar Investment Authority. The approaches made by the QIA to Sainsbury’s, the British supermarket group, and the London Stock Exchange, are just two examples of Qatar’s determination to play a leading role in the economy of the Gulf. Sheikh Tamim is son of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the head of the Qatari ruling family. The QIA, via its Qatari Diar property arm, is known in London for being the main backer of the £940 million purchase of Chelsea Barracks and the backer of One Hyde Park – 82 luxury flats, of which a penthouse sold for £100 million.


5 Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud is one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, with assets estimated at $20 billion (£9.6 billion). His interests span hospitality, property and direct equity investment. He made a large part of his fortune investing in Citigroup, the US investment house. He is a nephew of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. With Bill Gates, of Microsoft, he bought the Four Seasons hotel chain for $3.4 billion last year.


6 Lubna Olayan,the Saudi business-woman, is chief executive of the Olayan Financing Company, which handles an estimated $20 billion worth of investment for the Olayan Group, one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest businesses. The Olayan Group is active in industry, tourism, finance, property development, transportation and manufacturing and has fostered close ties with US companies. It owns lucrative Middle East distribution franchises for brands such as Colgate-Palmolive, Burger King, Nestlé and Coca-Cola. Its international partners include BP Solar, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan, Bechtel and Burger King. Lubna Olayan sits on the board of Saudi Hollandi Bank and WPP, the advertising group. Moreover, she is a champion of women’s rights and stands in the vanguard of a new generation of women rising through the ranks of business in the Gulf.


7 Prince Saud bin Thunayan al-Saud is the chairman of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic), the largest public company in the Middle East, which is 70 per cent owned by Saudi Arabia’s Government. The remaining 30 per cent is controlled by private Middle East investors. When Sabic bought GE Plastics for about $11.6 billion in May it was the largest acquisition by an Arab company of a foreign rival. Sabic was set up by royal decree in 1976 as a way of using the byproducts of Saudi Arabia’s vast oil reserves to produce commodities such as chemicals, polymers and fertilisers. Today, it represents the promise of a different kind of Gulf conglomerate, not privately-owned and introspective but publicly listed and global.


8 Maan Abdul Waheed al-Sanea became the second-biggest shareholder in HSBC this year after amassing a 3.1 per cent stake in the bank worth £3.3 billion. Mr al-Sanea is the co-founder of the Saad Group, a conglomerate that built its fortune on construction and engineering. The former air force pilot is passionate about healthcare and education. He founded a private hospital and support centre for special-needs children and their families in Saudi Arabia and has vowed to invest more in healthcare across the Gulf in the future.


9 Nasser al-Kharafi, chairman of the Kuwait-based Al-Kharafi Group, has net worth estimated at $12 billion by Forbes, the US magazine. His interests span construction, telecoms and fast food.


10 Ali Ibrahim al-Naimi is the chairman Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, which is state-owned and is thought to be worth an estimated $800 billion. Mr al-Naimi joined Saudi Aramco in 1974 and worked his way up through the organization to become president and chief executive. In 1995 he became Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister.


11 Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem chairs Dubai World, the state-owned company that controls about 100 companies. Those businesses include Nakheel, the property developer estimated to be worth $60 billion and best known for its construction of the Jumeirah Palm, the palm tree shaped man-made island off the coast of Dubai; DP World, the infrastructure business that bought P&O for $6.9 billion; and Istithmar, a private equity-type investment fund with investments ranging from Standard Chartered, the bank, to Barneys, the department store. It also bought the QE2 in June for $100 million.


12 Sameer al-Ansari is chief executive of Dubai International Capital, which showed the nature of its ambitions this week when it acquired a 9.9 per cent stake in Och-Ziff, the US hedge fund manager. Among past roles he was chief financial officer in the executive office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.


13 Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon al-Nahyan is chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. He was responsible for persuading the Louvre and Guggenheim museums of Paris and New York to open branches in Abu Dhabi. He has not only led Abu Dhabi’s efforts to regain international profile from its noisier, flashier cousin down the road – Dubai – he has also signalled the region’s commitment to culture as well as capitalism.


14 Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarakis the chief executive of the Mubadala Development Company, an Abu Dhabi-backed investment company that owns, among many other things, a 5 per cent stake in Ferrari, the motor racing brand, helping to bring Abu Dhabi its first Grand Prix. At the same time, Mubadala is investing heavily in treatments for diabetes, an illness that affects a large proportion of emiratis.


15 Mohammad al-Gergawi, the executive chairman of Dubai Holding and the UAE’s Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, is widely seen as Sheikh Mohammed’s right-hand man. Dubai Holding is one of the main investment companies in Dubai and is responsible for land development and infrastructure.


16 Anees Issa built his reputation as a media mogul in Oman before going into tourism. As the chairman of The Blue City, a $15 billion coastal project, he has promised to transform his country into the Switzerland of the Middle East. When finished, The Blue City will have hospitals, schools and a university. The 34 sq km seafront city, only 45 minutes from Muscat, will also include two championship golf courses and four luxury hotels and will point to the thing that makes the country distinctive among Gulf states: diverse regions of outstanding natural beauty.


17 Majid al-Futtaim is the president of MAF Group, one of the most adventurous retail groups in the region. He has developed some of the Gulf’s largest shopping centres, including the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. MAF also brought the French hypermarket Carrefour to the Middle East.
18 Khalid Kanoo is the Bahrain-based group managing director of the Kanoo Group, with construction, oil, gas, engineering, shipping and financial services interests throughout the Gulf and the Saudi peninsula.


19 Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum is chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and president of the Department of Dubai Civil Aviation, a governing body that oversees the activities of Dubai International airport, among other things. Sheikh Ahmed is the uncle of the current ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Emirates is already one of the ten largest airlines and some think that it may grow to become the world’s largest within ten years.


20 Sheikha Lubna al-Qasimi is the United Arab Emirate’s Minister for Economy and Planning. She has taken leading roles in the UAE’s ambition to diversify revenues away from oil and in developing more robust trade links with countries outside the region, including the US.


21 Mohamed bin Ali Alabbar is founder and chairman of Emaar, Dubai’s largest property company. It was formed in 1997 and is listed on the Dubai stock exchange but still majority-owned by the state. Via Emaar, Dubai has staked its claim for having the world’s largest building, the Burj Dubai, a $20 billion project. At 156 floors and climbing, the Burj is already nearly 600 metres (1,969 ft) high and is expected to reach 164 floors – although the final height is being kept a closely guarded secret. Mr Alabbar’s personal connections with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah helped Emaar this year to win a contract to build a new Saudi city near Jeddah at a cost of $26.6 billion.


22 Ismail Mataris the UAE’s answer to David Beckham and a potentially lucrative pin-up for advertisers. The 24-year-old football star has won the hearts of a soccer-mad nation. He is best known for leading the UAE to their first trophy, the 2007 Gulf Cup, which was held in Abu Dhabi. Matar scored five goals in five games, picking up both the best player’s and top scorer’s trophies and he is being tipped for a move to a European club side. He is also the embodiment of a new, powerful phenomenon in the Gulf: home-grown celebrity.


23 Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missnedchairs the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, a private nonprofit organisation founded in 1995 and pursuing teaching and social reforms. In 2003, Unesco appointed her a special envoy for basic and higher education and she established the International Fund for Higher Education in Iraq.


24 Esam Janahi, chairman of Gulf Finance House, one of the region’s fastest-growing Islamic banks, principal investor in the $1.5 billion Bahrain Financial Harbour business development and the force behind “energy cities” built or planned for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Beijing.


25 Abdul Latif al-Sayegh, the chief executive of Arab Media Group, which owns three newspapers, nine radio stations and two television stations. He is at the forefront of media freedoms with a special interest in promoting the development of a more questioning journalism.




From The Times
November 2, 2007

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eone
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