Established in 1890 by Haji Yusuf Bin Ahmed Kanoo, the YBAK Group is one of the most successful and important family-owned businesses in the GCC, with joint ventures and related businesses spanning the globe. The family is among the top ten wealthiest in the Arab world. Now, as elsewhere in the Gulf, pressures are mounting for it to go public and to invite outside investors.
Fawzi Ahmed Kanoo, Deputy Chairman of YBAK, talked exclusively to Pamela Ann Smith for The Middle East magazine about some of the Group's activities, which cover a multitude of sectors, ranging from shipping, travel and leisure to industry, construction, finance, retail and ICT, and how it has managed to compete under difficult conditions. He also reveals the Group's expansion plans in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where demand is rising rapidly for their goods and services and considers the option of offering shares to the public while honouring the traditional values and legacy of their founders and late Group Chairman, Abdulla Ali Kanoo.
Your experience with YBA Kanoo is long and varied. Let's start with transportation, as, in addition to being Deputy Chairman, you are also a Director of the Kanoo Transportation Group. How do you see freight, cargo services and aircraft handling developing as world trade and investment shifts to the East?
We are deeply involved in the freight business, from Bahrain to Oman, including Saudi Arabia, where there is a high demand for freight business, which has a lot of potential.
Now that the new Khalifa Bin Salman Port in Bahrain is open, a lot of cargo is coming in and out, not only the traditional items, but also many other special cargoes, such as chemicals. In addition, we are in the logistics and warehousing business, which is also fast developing.
We are involved in aircraft handling in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which is expanding rapidly, as new foreign carriers are coming to the Gulf and Saudi Arabia on a regular daily basis, in addition to the natural growth of our own local carriers such as Gulf Air, Saudia, etc.
How important is Saudi Arabia to the Group?
Saudi Arabia is very important to the Group. Almost 60% of our business and income is generated there because, geographically, Saudi Arabia is a vast country with an increasing potential for good business.
In Bahrain, you are Executive Director of Bahrain Ship Repairing & Engineering and a Director of Aluminium Bahrain and the Gulf Hotels Group. These...