09 May 2021
Top 100 Arab Family Businesses in the Middle East

In the Middle East, family businesses are more influential than corporates. According to a 2019 report by PwC, family firms contribute approximately 60% to the region’s GDP and employ 80% of the workforce. The report estimated that in the previous decade, up to $1 trillion had passed from one generation to the next within the Middle East’s family businesses. But this decade may be the most challenging yet. Most large family businesses in the region operate in traditional industries like distribution, franchising, industrials, real estate and construction, and hospitality. However, although these industries have experienced many good years, they have recently found themselves disrupted to different extents, largely due to the ongoing global pandemic. But that being said, they have been ahead of the curve when it comes to diversification. Of this year’s top 100 family firms, 87% are diversified business conglomerates. These groups invest in a variety of different sectors and geographies. While this means more initial capital outlay, it also increases their chance for growth and enables them to spread their risk. For example, while the travel and hospitality sectors have crashed this last year, the technology and entertainment sectors have boomed. When it comes to gender diversification however, family businesses in the Middle East are still very much run by men, and a lot of them actually established the business. Of the top 100 family-run companies in 2021, 32 of the chairpeople are the original founders or cofounders, and only three are headed by women: Mohsin Haider Darwish, headed by Areej and Lujaina Darwish; the Olayan Group, run by Hutham Olayan; and the Orientals Group, chaired by Yasmine Khamis. As new generations take over and families modernize, we may see more women in the top roles in future. Saudi companies dominate our list of the Top 100 Arab Family Businesses In The Middle East 2021, with 36 from the kingdom. Saudi is followed by the U.A.E with 25 entries, and Kuwait with seven.

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