The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is one of the most strategically important regions of the world. It is located at the heart of global trade routes and major oil-producing centers. Historically, it has been an important gateway to Europe from Asia and was a part of the Silk Road.
The MENA nations are culturally, politically, and economically diverse. Previously plagued by political unrest and unregulated markets, policymakers are starting to create a pro-investor environment. Many countries in the GCC are forming a strong legal investment framework after the collapse of Abraaj Capital. Analysts and investors believe that it is time for a second look at MENA-focused funds as the signs of economic growth re-emerge.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Investment Trends
The MENA region has experienced disparate economic growth since the discovery of oil in the Middle East. The first phase of foreign investments flowed into the oil and gas industry, followed by financials in the second phase. Currently, there is ample scope for investment diversification in sectors like technology, healthcare, industrials, consumer goods, and services.
From an investment perspective, the most important MENA countries are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey. These countries facilitate the flow of foreign and regional funds to family-owned enterprises through private equity. The region has many family-owned small and medium-scale businesses which require local partners for smooth operations. As the region seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economies, many new opportunities can arise in the MENA private equity space.
The region received record investments in 2021, especially in tech startups. A report by EMA partners predicts that the Middle East has more than $3.71 trillion in investment capability, just within the top 10 largest institutional funds and private equity companies. There has been significant growth in fintech (13% year-on-year growth) startups in the region fueled by foreign investments. Investments are coming back to the region, especially in the healthcare industry, consumer goods, IT firms, and SAAS companies. This is a positive breakthrough from the stereotypical investments in oil production.
Top Private Equity Companies in MENA Region
The majority of private capital in the region is held by Sovereign Wealth Funds (48%), followed by national and investment banks (33%). The remaining gap is filled by public pension funds, private asset managers, and insurance companies. Here are the top private equity companies in the MENA region. .
Al Muhaidib, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia-based Al Muhaidib Group is one of the largest private equity firms in the MENA region. The company is headquartered in Dammam, with regional offices in Riyadh and Jeddah. Al Muhaidib has a strong regional presence with extensive influence in sectors like agriculture, consumer goods, infrastructure, industrials, financial investments, and real estate. The company is present across four continents and 25 countries with extensive experience in the MENA region.
The company maintains a strong social connection through the Al Mohideen social foundation, which works for the upliftment of society. With over 75 years of experience, it is partnered with some of the biggest brands in Saudi Arabia. Some of the major sectoral investments of the Al Muhaidib Group are-
Agriculture and FMCG
- Mayar foods- Rice Wholesale
- Delmonte- Snacks and Fruits
- Nestle- Saudi Arabia Manufacturer and Distributor
- Al Romansiah- Upscale Restaurant Chain
- Savola Group- Grocery Chain
- Al Maha Foods- Basmati Rice Specialist
- Al Maha General Trading- Deep Distribution Network in Iraq
- Al Mehraj- Speciality Snacks
- United Feed- Barley Wholesaler
- Al Zahrawi- Specialty Medical Equipment
- Ak Hoshan Group- Workplace Solutions
- SABB- Saudi British Bank, Formerly HSBC
- Amwal AlKhaleej- MENA-focused AMC
- Synthomer Middle East Company- Specialty Chemical
- EPPC- Egypt-based Propylene and Polypropylene Manufacturer
- Al Oula Real Estate- Consultancy Firm for Real Estate Development
- Ajdan Development Company- Saudi Arabian Real Estate Developer
- Rafal Real Estate- Riyad-Based Developer behind BurjRafal
- Saudi Tharwa- Land Holding and Real Estate Developer
- Stone Residence-Cairo Based Real Estate
Riyad Capital, Saudi Arabia
Riyadh Capital is the investment arm of Riyadh bank and is one of the most influential wealth management companies in the Middle East. The Saudi Arabia-based company oversees assets worth US$18 billion deployed in a range of private and public companies. It is licensed by the Saudi Arabian Capital Market Authority.
Riyadh Capital acquires assets through private equity, debt, commercial debt, private debt, real estate development funds, and strategic underwriting with investment banks. These products are categorized as Money Market Funds, Fixed Income Funds, Equity Funds, Fund of Funds, and Real Estate Traded Funds. The Riyadh Capital Fund of Funds encompasses nine big funds with more than $10 billion in assets.
The firm is spread out into financial derivatives, capital markets, and private equity. It also provides corporate investment banking, custody services, IPO listing, underwriting, securities, asset management, and wealth management. Riyadh Capital reported growing revenue in recent times through multiple channels like operating income, fees, commission, trading gains, and exchange income. In the first half of 2022, it gave $400 million as dividends to its investors.
Riyadh Capital offers innovative opportunities to investors through a series of mutual fund products, diversified across all sectors of the economy. The investment philosophy of Riyadh capital remains rooted in seeing the long-term picture, and it has assets in strategic sectors of national importance. The company is well engraved within the economic and political system of Saudi Arabia. It also has future plans to invest $1.6 billion to develop the Jawharat Riyadh and Jawharat Jeddah economic corridors.
With more than $1.9 billion of funds and investments in more than 170 projects in 25 African countries, AfricInvest is one of the largest private equity companies in Africa. It is also sometimes regarded as the gateway to the African private equity market and an easy way to broadly invest in Africa’s growth. The firm has strong international footprints outside Africa in Dubai, Paris, and Washington.
Headquartered in Tunisia, it has a widespread presence in African cities like Nairobi, Algeria, Abidjan, Tunis, Casablanca, and Cairo. The investment approach of AfricInvest is to discover regional champions and empower them with its vast network of capital, business experiences, and helpful resources. AfricInvest has a strong on-ground team with extensive industry expertise in different sectors that understands local challenges and actively manages the company’s equity partners.
AfricInvest has consistently worked with African SMEs and governments for the general upliftment of the region. It commits itself to global causes like green energy, liberal labor laws, and promoting gender equality. The company maintains a 38% female workforce.
AfricInvest manages 11 private equity funds divided into sectors and company types. The company invests in themes like consumer discretionary, consumer staples, financials, industrials, healthcare, information technology, materials, telecommunication, services, energy, and utilities. Some of the most notable investments by the Company are EXAT, EFC Uganda, and GAT Assurances.
Wafa Gestion, Morocco
Morocco-based Wafa Gestion is a dominant player in Northern Africa. The country’s largest AMC manages $12.8 billion of assets for individual and institutional clients. It specializes in designing market-specific mutual funds through the Moroccan capital market.
According to Fitch Ratings, Wafa Gestion is a well-established firm with a disciplined investment approach, best suited for fixed income benchmark indices investments. It is the first asset management company in Morocco to be rated by Fitch ratings. Fitch maintains its AAAmf Reading on two of its money market funds.
The company was listed as the fifth largest asset manager of 2021 in the MENA region by Forbes International. Wafa Gestion received recognition at notable platforms like African Banking Awards and Thomson Reuters Lipper Fund Awards. Wafa Gestion is the largest AMC in Morocco, with a 25% market share.
In its more than 25 years of operation, the company has invested in the money, equity, and debt markets of Africa. It launched the first Islamic fund in Morocco in 1996. The company has consistently generated profits for its shareholders and is much admired for its fiducial integrity. Attijariwafa bank (66%) and Amundi (34%) are the two notable shareholders in Wafa Gestion.
SHUAA Capital, United Arab Emirates
With more than $14 billion in assets, SHUAA Capital is an important fund in the MENA region. The company merged with the Abu Dhabi Financial Group in 2019, creating one of the biggest private equity companies in the GCC. The company specializes in asset management and investment banking. It is an active private equity investor in businesses throughout the entire Middle East.
SHUAA Capital has 40 years of experience in debt management, asset management, and investment banking. It has deployed $13.1 billion in eight countries of MENA. The company’s main core products are open-ended funds, bespoke portfolios, close-ended funds, alternate debt and restructuring finance, investment advisory services, capital market products, direct private equity investments, and custody services.
The company also actively exits its private equity investments through IPO, sale to a financial/strategic buyer, and dividend recapitalization. The two main geographical markets for the Company are MENA and GCC. It invests heavily in top family-owned companies in different sectors like technology, shipping, infrastructure, financial services, real estate, and insurance.
Some prominent investments of SHUAA under private equity in the MENA region area are Anghami (music streaming service provider), Stanford Marine Group (Dubai-based offshore oil drilling company), Grandweld (shipbuilder), Qannas Investments Limited (close-ended fund), and NCM Investment (popular trading platform in UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, and Turkey).
The company is also an active investor in public markets of the Middle East. After its recent merger with Abu Dhabi Financial Group, it has become the region’s third largest real estate investor. Their real estate investments include HNI residences, commercial office spaces, retail businesses, warehousing, and tourism assets in the MENA region. The company also has real estate investments in the United Kingdom (Northacre) and Eastern Europe (Terra real estate). The company has more than $8 billion of AUM real-estate assets, earning an annual income of US$600 million in FY 20-21.
The SHUAA private equity investment fund has won several awards like
- Best Asset Management and Investment Banking Middle East from MENA Business Awards
- Best Sharia Compliant Fund Manager UAE from Global Brand Awards,
- Most Innovative Investment Banking Advisory UAE Global Business Outlook
- Most Innovative Fund Company Global Economics,
- Asset Management Company of the Year in MENA Region Global Banking and Finance Awards
- Goldilocks MENA equity fund of the Year
- Asset Management Company of the Year and Best Investment Bank for MENA region Global Banking and Finance.
Dubai Investment Fund
Founded in 2001, Dubai Investment Fund is one of the most important private equity companies in the MENA region. DIF invests in emerging technologies with risk management specializations. The core philosophy of the investment group is to develop sustainable energy and invest beyond the conventional hydrocarbon sector in the MENA region. It is actively invested in clean energy projects in developing nations. In 2021, the DIF completed its largest investment in renewable energy, reaffirming its commitments to sustainable development.
The company expanded aggressively in the first decade of the 21st century into all key countries of the MENA region. DIF came into the spotlight in 2016 with the launch of the first AI lab in Dubai that leverages machine learning, quantum processing, and data sciences technology. The company has large investments in the IT sector through a network of leading tech startups. DIF is well diversified into different sectors like real estate, infrastructure, healthcare, finance, retail and consumer, commodities, industrials, and blockchain technology.
The firm has increasingly focused on emerging technologies as a theme for its upcoming investments. It actively invests in startups developing futuristic technologies related to finance and blockchain capabilities. Climate change is an important issue for the company, and it actively invests in achieving net zero emissions from its subsidiary businesses.
DIF has a strong private equity model through which it forms long-term partnerships with local businesses and regional brands. It benefits from two decades of experience in the region and a diverse workforce present in 17 different locations of the MENA region. The company has more than 7300 clients from 61 countries and manages $320 billion of client assets. The company is also looking to invest in emerging markets beyond the MENA region.
Investcorp has a dedicated private equity fund for the Middle East and North Africa region. It is one of the largest AMCs in the Middle East with more than $42 billion of assets. It has invested more than US$1.4 billion in 16 major MENA investments since its entry into the region in 2008. These major investments have been followed by add-on acquisitions over the years. It won the Firm of the Year: Middle East and Africa for 2018 award at Private Equity International Awards.
The company makes long-term strategic investments with prominent business families in the region. Their core investment philosophy revolves around the economic transformation of the MENA region. The firm’s investments are spread in strategic sectors like healthcare, energy, logistics, industrials, transportation, retail, and consumer goods. Some of the key brands in Investcorp’s portfolio are-
- S&S Truck Parts, North America
- Al Borg Medical Laboratories, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
- Al Yusr Industrial Contracting Company, Jubail, Saudi Arabia
- Arvento Mobile Systems, Istanbul, Turkeyge, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar & Saudi)
- Automak Automotive Company, Kuwait
- Bindawood Holding, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
- Tiryaki Agro, Istanbul, Turkey
- Theeb Rent a Car, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Hydrasun Group Holdings, Aberdeen, Scotland
- Namet Istanbul, Turkey
- Reem Integrated Healthcare, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Kamco Investment, Kuwait
Kamco Investment company is a part of the United Gulf bank and specializes in asset management services in the MENA region. It started in 1998 and was listed on the Banswara Kuwait exchange in 2003. Currently, the company manages more than $13.8 billion worth of assets for its private and institutional investors. Formerly known as KIPCO asset management company, the firm changed its name to KAMCO in December 2014. Kamco has five offices in the Middle East in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey.
Kamco has a strong foothold in private equity through well-timed investments in healthcare, shipping, logistics, petrochemicals, financial services, real estate, and education. The company engages with medium size enterprises and family businesses in the MENA region.
A major portion of Kamco’s investments is in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Turkey, and Oman. The company is a major player in the regional non banking finance sector, with its headquarters in Kuwait. The company also provides investment banking, brokerage, and research and analysis service.
Some of the most notable companies from its private equity portfolio are
- Gulf Healthcare International (Healthcare, UAE & Kuwait)
- Planet Pharmacies (Pharmaceuticals, UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia)
- AlSoor Financing and Leasing Co. KSCC (Consumer Finance, Kuwait)
- Future Kid Entertainment & Real Estate Company (Hospitality and Entertainment, Kuwait)
- Al Jazeera Steel Products Company (Steel Manufacturing, Oman)
- Jassim Transport and Stevedoring Company (Logistics and Stevedoring, Kuwait)
- Olgarlar Spor Malzemeleri (Sports Retail and Distribution, Turkey)
- Yargici (Fashion Retail, Turkey)
- Bicakcilar (Medical Equipment, Turkey)
- United Towers Company (Real Estate, Kuwait)
- Industrial Bank of Kuwait (Banking, Kuwait)
- YYT Food Corporation (Food & Beverage, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar & Saudi)
Kamco Investments received several notable awards, including-
- Best M&A investment bank in Middle East 2020 and Best Debt Bank in the Middle East 2021 by Global Finance
- Wealth Manager of the Year in Kuwait 2018 by Global Investor Group
- Best Asset Management Company GCC by World Finance 2017
- Best Investment Research Company 2017
- Best Investment Promotions and Marketing Investment Kuwait 2019
- Best Corporate Governance by Global Business Outlook
GFH Financial Group, Bahrain
GFH Financial Group manages US$15 billion of total assets for its clients. The company is well diversified in the MENA region through a number of funds. The company is focused on the core GCC area with fringe investments in Egypt, America, UK, and India.
GFH Financial has 22 years of experience in commercial banking, investment management, real estate development, and treasury services management. It is the parent institution of Khaleeji Commercial Bank, one of the most important commercial lenders in Bahrain. GFH is listed on the Bahrain Bourse, Boursa Kuwait, Dubai Financial Market (DFM), and the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX). The company also has a $300 million US student housing debt asset in its portfolio.
Jadwa Investment, Saudi Arabia
Jadwa Investment is a regional private equity company with $13.7 billion of assets under its management. The firm is headquartered in Riyadh with multiple regional offices in the Middle East. It is one of the most prominent investment houses in the Middle East, with high-value clients that include government funds, foreign portfolio investors, prominent business families, regional institutional investors, and high-net-worth individuals.
The company received the REFINTIVE Best global Islamic equity group Lipper Award in 2021. Jadava is one of the most active participants in the private equity market in the MENA region. It leads the heavy industries private equity in Saudi Arabia and has deep financial ties with oil and industrial companies based in the GCC area. It also invests in private equity markets outside the MENA region through the Jadava International PE Fund. The company invests in hydrocarbons, consumer goods, agriculture, commodities, manufacturing, hospitality, entertainment, healthcare, industrials, IT, and fintech.
EFG Hermes is one of the largest financial corporations in Africa, investing in frontier emerging markets. It has $3.5 billion of deployed assets throughout Africa and the Middle East. It has an extensive network of small and medium-sized enterprises in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, acquired through private equity.
EFG Hermes has offices in 13 countries across the MENA and South East Asia. it also has deep market coverage across 75 MENA exchanges, including the Egyptian Exchange, NASDAQ Dubai, Dubai financial market DSM, Nairobi’s securities exchange NSE, and Kuwait stock exchange KSE.
The 35-year-old brand operates through three platforms, investment banks, non-bank financial institutions (NBFI), and AI bank. The main sources of income for the investment firm come from securities brokerage, investment banking, asset management, private equity, leasing, factoring, and Treasury activities.
EFG Hermes is one of the most aggressive investment companies in northern Africa. The most recent acquisition was a 51% majority stake in AI Bank, which gave it access to the financial markets of Egypt. A bulk of its investments are in Egypt, followed by UAE, Kuwait, and Oman. The company has made several small-scale investments by micro-managing its business partners.
EFG Hermes has a deep understanding of regional markets. Its experience in investing in the small-scale industries of Africa has helped it gain a strong foothold among underdeveloped and developing nations. Investments revolve around six core principles of EFG Hermes corporate strategy or the six P’s; people, positioning, public responsibility, profitability, product offering, and presence.
The private equity division has more than 20 years of experience in investing in the MENA region. The organization has been recognized BY many global awards in both the MENA region and the African subcontinent. EFG Hermes’s Egypt Education Fund is a $50 million effort dedicated to uplifting the education standards of Egypt.
The private equity division of EFG Hermes consists of portfolio investments in energy, healthcare, education, fintech, manufacturing, real estate, hydrocarbons, agriculture, logistics, transportation, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, and clean energy. EFG Hermes also launched the Vortex Energy Investment Platform in 2014 to develop sustainable energy infrastructure in Europe. It is partnered with United pharma, a leading Egyptian pharmaceutical company. The company made inroads into the logistics and transportation industry by partnering with acquiring Option Travel in 2019. The company also has made substantial investments in new-age fintech startups.