Arab billionaires feel the heat of 2016

Arab billionaires feel the heat of 2016
Forbes' highly anticipated 2016 Arab World Rich List was unveiled on Sunday, showing low oil prices have made a dint on the fortunes of the region's rich and powerful.
3 min read
18 Apr, 2016
Riyadh's Prince al-Waleed saw a 20 percent drop in his fortune this year [Getty]

Low oil prices have cost the richest Arabs billions of dollars. But the region's captains of industry remain among the richest in the world, according to Forbes.

The business magazine's annual Arab rich list has this year shown a marked decline in the wealth of Arab businessmen - no women made the top list.

"The past year was unkind to billionaires all over the world, including the Middle East, where Arab billionaires saw their net worth drop by 23.8 percent from a year ago," Forbes told Dubai-based Gulf News.

Leading the rich list is Saudi Arabia's Prince al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, with a fortune built on investments and construction.

He is best known for promising to "donate" $32 billion of his wealth to a charitable fund, and also for threatening to sue Forbes in 2013 for understating his wealth by $9.6 billion.

"Philanthropy is a personal responsibility, which I embarked upon more than three decades ago and is an intrinsic part of my Islamic faith," he said in a statement last year.

"With this pledge [to donate his wealth to charity], I am honouring my life-long commitment to what matters most - helping to build a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world for generations to come."

This year, Forbes put the prince's net worth at $17.3 billion, a 20 percent drop from the 2015 figure.

This was still nearly double the fortune of the second-richest Arab on the list, Mohammed al-Amoudi, also a Saudi.

Much of the Ethiopian-born Amoudi's wealth comes from oil and international investments, but the entrepreneur also saw a drop in revenues over the past year.

Following in third and fourth places was Emirati property magnate Majid al-Futtaim, and his compatriot Abdullah bin Ahmed al-Ghurair - each with estimated personal wealth of around $5 billion.

When it was good to be rich: Read last year's Forbes rich list

Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawaris followed in fifth place. He famously said this year that he would purchase a Mediterranean island to establish a new country for Syrian refugees.

Oil slump

Low oil prices have strained Gulf economies and businesses alike. Resource-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE have even rolled out austerity programmes to weather the storm.

On Sunday, hopes that oil-producing countries could reach a deal on cutting production to raise market prices were dashed when a meeting in the Qatari capital ended without agreement.

Judging from the billions of dollars in the bank accounts of the Arab world's richest entreprenuers, there won't be too much tightening of belts just yet.

But one man who might be feeling the pinch is last year's number two - Lebanese-Brazilian banker Joseph Sabra - who was charged with corruption in March following Brazil's anti-corruption drive.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's youngest son, Fahd, was named the youngest Arab billionaire due to his property empire in Beirut.

From the list, Saudi Arabia boasted six billionaires, with a combined wealth of $34.6 billion.

The UAE and Egypt each had six billionaires, while Lebanon has seven and Oman two.

Morocco and Algeria had one each while Qatar followed with one named businessman [Sheikh Faisal Qassim al-Thani] with a $2 billion estimated worth.