Revealed: Top 5 most powerful Arabs in Saudi Arabia

The highest ranking entries originating from Saudi Arabia in Gulf Business’ annual Arab power list



Saudi nationals are the second largest group in our 2018 Arab Power list with 19 entries.

This year’s ranking also includes several new entrants from the kingdom including HH Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, the head of women’s affairs at Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority, and the new chairman of the kingdom’s Capital Market Authority Mohammed bin Abdullah El-Kuwaiz.

November’s corruption purge that saw hundreds of businessmen, royals and government officials detained in the kingdom was a key factor in our ranking this year. Read on to find out how.

Read: Saudi says $107bn received in corruption settlements

Here are the top five most powerful Arabs from Saudi Arabia –

1. HE Khalid Al Falih (main image)

Chairman, Aramco / Ma’aden

Sector: Energy

Overall rank: 2

The last 12 months have seen Saudi Arabia’s minister of petroleum and mineral resources really step into his stride after prolonging an oil bargain with Russia and other OPEC members to maintain production cuts that have seen Bent crude prices rise from $55 a barrel to nearly $70. Beyond this he has spearheaded Saudi Arabia’s industrial strategy as chairman of national mining company Ma’aden, which is undergoing major expansion of its aluminium and phosphate production capabilities, overseen bidding for the first solar project under a $50bn renewable energy drive and driven the kingdom’s ambitions in nuclear energy with the first step in a multi-billion-dollar tender competition for two nuclear power plants. This is without even mentioning his role at state oil giant Saudi Aramco (where he was CEO from 2009 to 2015), which is planning the world’s largest initial public offering in the second half of this year.

2. Yousef Abdullah Al Benyan

Vice chairman and CEO, SABIC

Sector: Industry

Overall rank: 3

Al Benyan has worked hard to advance the fortunes of SABIC since first taking on the role of acting CEO in February 2015, despite tough market conditions and changes to regulation impacting the Gulf region’s current largest listed company. His efforts have beeng paying off, with signs of some relief in 2017 as the firm reported a 10.7 per cent increase in third quarter profit. Al Benyan has made no secret of his intentions for SABIC to climb up the global petrochemical ladder from its current position as the fourth largest firm, stating in May the company was evaluating up to $6bn of acquisitions. It continued to make moves in the second half of the year including the August acquisition of a 50 per cent stake in a Saudi petrochemical venture with Shell it did not already own and a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Aramco to build a $20bn complex for converting crude oil to chemicals. The company also said in December it would open an office in Iraq and boost investments in China. Meanwhile work continues on a $10bn petrochemical complex being built in partnership with Exxon Mobil in the US.

3. HH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Chairman, Kingdom Holding

Sector: Finance

Overall rank: 7

It would be fair to say that many of Alwaleed’s achievements over the last 12 months, including the acquisition of 7.11 per cent stake in Middle East ride company Careem for $67m and plans to invest $800m in Egyptian hotels and acquire a 16.2 per cent stake in Banque Saudi Fransi, were overshadowed by events at the end of 2017. The Saudi billionaire, who is the international face of the kingdom to many in the global business community after making shrewd investments in companies including Mövenpick Hotels, Walt Disney, News Corp and Twitter, was arrested under a corruption purge in November that snared hundreds of businessmen, royals and ministers. He was released from the kingdom’s luxury prison, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, at the end of January and maintained his innocence despite reports that he had settled with authorities and handed over part of his estimated $17.6bn fortune. Alwaleed has since returned to his philanthropic ways after announcing a $530,000 donation to Al Hilal football club earlier this month.

Read: Newly free Saudi Prince Alwaleed gives to football club

Read: Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed released

4. Amin Nasser

President and CEO, Saudi Aramco

Sector: Energy

Overall rank: 12

After serving for more than three decades at the company, Amin Nasser was announced as the replacement to Aramco CEO Khalid Al Falih in 2015 and is now overseeing the state oil giant during one of the most important periods in its history. The 5 per cent listing of the company, scheduled for later this year, could raise as much as $100bn and make the company the most valuable in the world at $2 trillion. On top of this process, the world’s media are watching every word coming out of Nasser’s mouth to gauge market movements as the CEO of by far the biggest energy company in the world. In particular he warned in 2017 of a lack of investment in long-term oil production during the current period of lower prices. Aramco appears set to answer these concerns with plans to raise spending to $414bn over the next decade and diversify into new businesses like renewables and petrochemicals.

5. Mohamed bin Issa Al Jaber

Chairman and CEO, MBI International

Sector: Diversified

Overall rank: 18

Al Jaber could be set to rise in the ranks of Saudi Arabia’s rich and powerful as one of the kingdom’s few billionaires not to be detained in the November corruption purge. The businessman, who Bloomberg estimates has a fortune of $8.3bn through his London-based hotel, food and real estate company, has developed a reputation for litigation in recent years. He continued this trend in 2017 after pursuing an appeal of a decision by a New York court to throw out a $10bn damages claim against Barclays over a property deal and a UK High court battle with two other Saudi businessmen over a $30m loan claimed to have helped launch 24-hour news channel Al Arabiya.