- Date established: 1932
- Main business sectors: consumer goods, transport, oil, construction, automotive sales
- Main business regions: Northern Gulf
- Chief executive officers: Omar al-Ghanim (Alghanim Industries), Fouad al-Ghanim (Alghanim Group)
One of the most prominent merchant families of the northern Gulf, the Al-Ghanims are active in most areas of Kuwait’s economy. The two best-known corporate branches of the family are: Alghanim Industries, a highly diverse conglomerate based in Safat, Kuwait City, that specialises in consumer goods and services; and Fouad Alghanim & Sons Group of Companies – referred to as the Alghanim Group – an equally varied company based in Sharq, Kuwait, that is perhaps best known overseas for its transport, logistics, oil and construction businesses. The two enterprises, which are frequently confused with each other, were founded in 1932 and 1962 respectively.
A third business is the Ali Alghanim & Sons Group of Companies, which traces its origins back to the early 1960s, when a factory was built for the fabrication of steel sheds and water tanks. The group’s activities now cover trade, automotive sales and services, civil and mechanical contracting, structural steel fabrication and erection, joinery, general trading and hotel ownership.
The two larger conglomerates, Alghanim Industries and the Alghanim Group, trace their origins to scions of the Al-Ghanim family and the ownership and management of both companies remains in family hands. What is now Alghanim Industries was set up in the 1930s by Yusuf Ahmed al-Ghanim, and passed on to his sons, Kutayba and Bassam, in the 1970s. His grandson, Omar, joined the company in 2002 and is now its chief executive officer.
Like many members of the family, Omar Kutayba al-Ghanim has a number of business interests in Kuwait, representing the family’s majority interest in Gulf Bank, a publicly listed retail bank. He is also a founding shareholder of Perella Weinberg Partners, a boutique investment bank based in New York.
Fouad al-Ghanim was the first businessman to introduce mobile phones to Kuwait in the early 1970s and in 1983 he was the founder of the then biggest cellular phone operator in the Middle East, the Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC). He was also the founder and later chairman of the Umnia telecoms operator in Jordan.
The Alghanim Group, headed by Fouad al-Ghanim, comprises a range of independent Kuwaiti subsidiaries as well as a number of fully and partly owned subsidiary companies in the US, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Besides acting as regional representative for a range of international contractors and manufacturers, it is highly active in the local construction market, covering civil works to specialist engineering and electromechanical work. Much of its business comes from the public sector. Important clients include the housing, public works, energy and defence ministries of Kuwait, as well as state-owned Kuwait Oil Company.
|Al-Ghanim Family – Turnover, 2009 ($bn)|
Other areas covered by Alghanim Group include shipping services, such as general cargo shipping and local haulage, as well as investment project management, hotel ownership, telecoms engineering and management, aviation projects, real estate development and industrial production. It also represents several foreign car manufacturers, including Audi, in the Kuwaiti market.
Its close cousin Alghanim Industries covers an equally broad range of activities. The conglomerate got one of its first big breaks when it secured the franchise with General Motors (GM) to introduce the US car brand into Kuwait – a business that has grown into one of GM’s biggest overseas agencies.
Other brands now represented by Alghanim Industries in the local market include Hitachi, British Airways, Philips, Kirby Building Systems and Frigidaire, and the company has formed strategic alliances with a number of international names such as Xerox and American Express.
Further expansion can be expected in the near future, if comments made in May last year by Omar Kutayba al-Ghanim, chief executive officer at Alghanim Industries, at the World Economic Forum in Jordan are anything to go by. “A lot more assets are more reasonably priced so we are looking at acquisitions and multiple opportunities, primarily in southeast Asia,” he said. “It’s a market that is resilient, where the drivers for that economy are more sustainable. India and Vietnam are great markets.”
The company is also eyeing further opportunities in Turkey.
Meanwhile, the Alghanim Group has been building on its operations in Kuwait, which are dominated by its contracting and engineering business. Projects range from residential and commercial buildings to the installation of pumping stations.
The division acts as a prime contractor, as a subcontractor, and as the local representative of numerous foreign companies. It has formed several joint ventures with international contractors, such as Fluor Kuwait, an alliance with the US’ Fluor Corporation.
Fouad al-Ghanim also sits at the helm of Alghanim International, one of the largest power-related construction companies in the Gulf, with a total installed capacity in 2008 of 3,500MW and an average annual turnover of more than $2bn. The company claims to be the only engineering, procurement and construction contractor currently working in the regional power industry.
In June last year, the conglomerate was reported to be negotiating with a division of France’s EdF and Russian electricity trader Inter RAO to set up a joint investment vehicle for the international power sector.
Al Ghanim Industries – In numbers
- Number of employees – 12,000
- Number of countries in which the company operates – 40