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Revealed: Top 5 most powerful Arabs in Saudi Arabia

Revealed: Top 5 most powerful Arabs in Saudi Arabia

The highest ranked Arabs originating from Saudi Arabia in Gulf Business’ annual Arab power list

Saudi nationals once again rank as the second largest group in Gulf Business‘ annual Arab Power list for 2019, with the number of entries up to 23 from 19 last year.

In line with the kingdom’s focus to increase the participation of women in the workforce – as part of its Vision 2030 strategy – three of the new additions from Saudi Arabia are women – including the country’s first female filmmaker Haifa Al Mansour, the CEO of the Samba Financial Group Rania Mahmoud Nashar and Adwa Al Dakheel – the founder and CEO of Falak Business Hub.

The list of the top five Saudi entries on the list remained the same as last year, although two of them have seen their overall rank drop.

Read: Top 100 most powerful Arabs 2019

1. Khalid Al Falih

Chairman, Aramco

Sector: Energy

Overall rank: 2

2018 rank: 2

Life is never dull for the chairman of Saudi Aramco – not solely due to the oil giant’s nonstop supply of activity, but also thanks to his role as Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources. 

The world’s largest oil producing company had another busy year, with the acquisition of a Dutch rubber company for $1.7bn at the end of 2018, jointly investing with Adnoc in a $44bn refinery in India, and developing a $20bn oil-to-chemicals facility along the Red Sea coast as it seeks to convert two to three million barrels of oil into chemicals per year. 

The long-awaited IPO is still some way off, however, with the expected $2 trillion listing potentially happening in 2021.

Al Falih himself is a – if not the – global voice on oil, with his comments regularly dictating the direction and confidence of the market. His work with the Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden) should also not be overlooked, with the company boosting its capabilities in 2018 by automating its processes, as well as announcing plans to grow its phosphate and fertilisers business internationally.

2. Yousef Abdullah Al Benyan

Vice chairman and CEO, SABIC

Sector: Industry

Overall rank: 4

2018 rank: 3

As head of the world’s third-largest diversified petrochemicals company, and the Middle East’s largest public firm by market cap ($95.18bn), Yousef Al Benyan has a major role to play in the affairs of the Gulf region and wider world. With some 34,000 employees across the globe, SABIC has enjoyed another year of development, not least in acquiring a 24.99 per cent stake in Swiss chemical manufacturer Clariant, signing an agreement to develop a methanol facility in Luisiana, US, and being appointed to improve construction standards by the Saudi Contractors Authority. In January, Riyad Capital estimated that the company will see a 42 per cent boost in 2018 profits, with the firm itself is eyeing an increase in output of 70 per cent by 2025. Al Benyan’s work doesn’t end with SABIC, also being a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, among various other titles.

3. HH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Chairman, Kingdom Holding

Sector: Finance

Overall rank: 4

2018 rank: 3

It has been a relatively quiet year for HRH Prince Alwaleed, whose arrest in Saudi Arabia’s 2017-2018 corruption purge stifled his business dealings during and, to some degree, after his detention in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton for almost four months. Having dropped out of ForbesWorld’s Billionaires list in March last year, and with his net worth dropping by a reported 58 per cent, the prince has made a steady return to prominence lately, with his Kingdom Holding Company reviving loan talks and making notable investments, including $200m in Dubai-based ride-hailing app Careem – a company Alwaleed had already acquired 7 per cent of in 2017. Despite his return to business as usual, the past year will also be remembered as a difficult one of Alwaleed due to the death of his father, Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz.

4. Amin Nasser

President and CEO, Saudi Aramco

Sector: Energy

Overall rank: 12

2018 rank: 12

Running what could be the world’s most valuable company is no mean feat, but since replacing Khalid Al Falih as CEO in 2015, Amin Nasser has made it look easy. The IPO – which could value the company at $2 trillion – is still a way off happening yet, but Saudi Aramco has been as busy as ever nonetheless. In December the company announced the creation of Saudi Aramco Retail Company, to expand its network of domestic fuel retail stations across the kingdom. In the same month it announced the acquisition of the remaining 50 per cent stake in Netherlands-based chemicals JV ARLANXEO, while continuing its negotiations to buy a controlling stake it chemicals giant Sabic. Various other deals, acquisitions, and projects made it a typically bumper year, with Aramco also committing to King Salman Energy Park (SPARK), an energy city megaproject that is expected to generate 100,000 jobs and contribute $6bn to the country’s GDP annually.

5. Mohamed bin Issa Al Jaber

Chairman and CEO, MBI International

Sector: Diversified

Overall rank: 18

2018 rank: 18

With a fortune of more than $7bn, Mohamed Al Jaber had the distinction of being one of the few Saudi billionaires not detained as part of the kingdom’s corruption purge in late 2017. With his reputation and business interests intact, Al Jaber’s London-based MBI International Holding Group has had a relatively quiet time of late, allowing the hotel, food and real estate company to run without major incident. Under his control are JJW Hotels and Resorts – which owns and manages more than 50 properties in Europe and Egypt – oil company Continentoil, Jadawel International Construction, and food processing group Ajwa.

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