Kuwait Projects Company Holding (Kipco) is one of the largest diversified holding companies active across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, with consolidated assets worth more than $19bn. The group has significant ownership interests in a portfolio of 50 companies operating across 21 countries.
Its four core subsidiary companies are Burgan Bank, United Gulf Bank (UGB), Gulf Insurance Corporation and satellite TV broadcaster Showtime. According to credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service, these account for 78 per cent of Kipco’s assets and 64 per cent of its cash flow. In August 2009, Kipco completed a merger of Showtime and the pay-TV unit of Saudi-owned broadcasting company Orbit.
Outside these core businesses, Kipco operates companies under the United name: United Real Estate Company, United Industries Company and United Medical Services.
Kipco has spent 20 years acquiring, building, operating and selling companies in the Mena region, creating a portfolio primarily focused on financial services and media, sectors enjoying either steady or rapid growth in profits. Through the subsidiaries and affiliates of its core companies, Kipco also has interests in real estate, manufacturing, healthcare and management advisory businesses.
The geographical focus on the Mena region is a recognition of the fast-growing population in the Levant and North Africa, and of young consumers’ appetite for media products. Kipco sees low penetration rates in core sectors such as banking and insurance offering potential for sustainable and predictable cash flows.
Date established: 1975
Main business sectors: Financial services, media and technology
Main business regions: Middle East and North Africa
Chairman: Hamad Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah
Vice-chairman: Faisal Hamad al-Ayyar
The company’s belief is that to grow, it must cross both borders and business lines. It is constantly revising its corporate structure and assets. The recent transfer of commercial banks created or bought by UGB to Burgan Bank is an example. In 2008, UGB sold its holdings in Jordan Kuwait Bank, Algeria Gulf Bank, Tunis International Bank and the Bank of Baghdad to Burgan for KD194m ($677m). The new arrangement concentrates commercial banking under Burgan, while UGB will focus on investment banking and asset management.
Kipco seeks to maximise value from a business within five years of its establishment or acquisition through a strategy of increasing its operating income, expanding sales and making acquisitions. Plans it has outlined for its existing operations include improving the cash flows of its core companies, reducing the average cost of ownership and extending their presence in the region at a faster rate.
Its strategy, pursued for the past 20 years, of buying businesses, building them up and expanding them regionally will continue. While it focuses primarily on banking, insurance and media, Kipco is looking to identify under-served markets with proven potential for regional growth, such as Algeria. It is also looking to pick up a long-term savings and pension operation by early 2010.
In the media sector, Kipco expects its Showtime-Orbit merger to inject strength into the combined operations that individually they might not have enjoyed by, for example, securing economies of scale and negotiating with studios for better terms.