Arab billionaires’ wealth hits $155bn

DUBAI, 7 April 2015

Despite plunging oil prices, the number of billionaires in the Arab world rose to 49 this year – four more than last year — with a shared wealth of $155.1 billion, up $7.4 billion, according to Forbes Middle East.

The world’s top 100 Arab tycoons have continued to build their fortunes, amassing a combined wealth of $174.37 billion, an $8.3 billion increase on 2014.

In fact, 56 of the 100 billionaires and millionaires in this year’s Forbes list recorded an increase in their overall wealth and the 15 newcomers to the 2015 list indicate that there is more to come, the magazine said.

But while prosperity is rising, in many respects, this year’s list of affluent Arabs also represents certain continuity, serving as a reminder of the dominance of an elite group now synonymous with success.

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud once again presides over the ranking, with an estimated fortune of $22.6 billion, while Joseph Safra occupies second spot with $17.3 billion, it said.

The top 10 this year also hint at the continued strength of family ties, with members of the UAE’s Al Ghurair family and Egypt’s Mansour and Sawiris clans all retaining top spots.

Entries from the UAE and Egypt rank alongside business moguls from a total of 12 Arab countries. Saudi Arabia tops the list where both volume of entries and total wealth are concerned, accounting for 41 out of the top 100 fortune-fuelled names.

But Forbes Middle East’s ranking does more than showcase wealth, it provides valuable insight into the lay of the business land as well as the sectors, industries and geographies that make it tick. For instance, its research reveals that Saudi wealth this year stems overwhelmingly from the retail sector, with 14 names that include the kingdom’s biggest gainers for 2015: Fawaz, Abdul Majeed and Salman Alhokair, who have accrued an estimated $1.4 billion each from their string of shopping centres and apparel brands.

Retail of a more delicate nature is the focus of Forbes Middle East’s English edition cover this time around, with newcomer to the list, Robert Mouawad, shedding light on a legacy of jewellery and watchmaking prowess. The Lebanese diamond connoisseur has also diversified into real estate and holds estimated wealth of $1.5 billion.

Meanwhile, another Lebanese family steals the limelight, with Mohammed Hariri, CEO and chairman of BankMed featuring on the cover of the Arabic edition. Hariri is not ranked this year, but four of his family members make the list, with combined wealth of $6 billion.

Forbes Middle East’s top 100 richest Arabs builds on Forbes US’ recent Billionaires list, which features a total of 1,826 names with an aggregate net worth of $7.05 trillion. Bill Gates leads the charge once again—a position he’s held for 16 out of 21 years—with wealth to the tune of $79.2 billion, up $3.2 billion from last year. If that sounds impressive, fellow veteran of the billionaire scene, Warren Buffet’s wealth increased by $14.5 billion this year to $72.7 billion, making him the world’s biggest gainer of 2015.

“Amidst all the talk of gainers and indeed losers—23 Arab names have witnessed a drop this year too—dollars by the billion are falling through the cracks in a region where privacy reigns. While cognizant that the ranking represents only the tip of the Arab iceberg, in the name of transparency and fairness, Forbes Middle East has considered only publicly held shares recorded as of 13th February 2015. Where appropriate, audited documents and other official, verifiable information available in the public domain, or received directly from the source, have also been considered,” it said.

With TradeArabia News Service