THE MIDDLE EAST 150: Why Family Businesses Matter So Much For The Region

To understand how business works in the Middle East start with knowing about family businesses. That’s because family businesses of all sizes dominate the region. 

But many of them are very big, and to better illustrate the importance of family businesses in the Middle East, Family Capital in association with PwC has compiled a list of the top 150 family businesses in the region. 

We have ranked them in terms of how many people they employ, rather than their revenues because of the lack of data available on the latter for the privately-owned companies in the region. 

Pretty much all of these businesses might be unknown brands in the wider world, but within their home countries and the Middle East, they are big brands and well known. Businesses like Orascom Construction, the Mansour Group, Olayan Group, and the Zamil Group have existed for many generations and have established highly respected companies. In fact, all of them on our list make up a Who’s Who of the most respected and successful businesses in the Middle East. 

One of the defining attributes of many of the companies in the region is they have emerged to become conglomerates, operating in many sectors. Indeed, out of the 150 on the list, 60 are defined as conglomerates. 

These are companies like the Dubai-based RP Group, owned by the Pillai family; the Saudi-based Almarai Company, owned by the Al Kabeer family; and the Kuwait-based Fouad Alghanim & Sons Group of Companies, owned by the Alghanim family.

Many of the other businesses on the list often operate as conglomerates within their sectors, they work across for example the leisure (Kuwait Food Company), or construction sectors (Khansaheb Civil Engineering) and are dominant within them. 

Altogether, these businesses employ 2.2 million individuals across mostly the Middle East, but also worldwide. The biggest employer is the Kuwait-based construction group M.A. Kharafi & Sons, which employs as many as 120,000 worldwide. 

“Middle East family businesses are crucial for the region’s prosperity,” says Peter Englisch, global family business leader for PwC. “The 150 on the list have evolved to be very successful entrepreneurial-led businesses. There are aspects of their business models that family companies in the West could learn from, not least how many of them organise succession, which is often more entrepreneurial-minded than in their Western equivalent. Many of the next generation is embracing the challenges the digital revolution is bringing to their businesses and is succeeding in these efforts.”

But family enterprises in the Middle East aren’t without their challenges. Just like companies across the world they face disruption from the digital world. Many of them also need to do more to upskill their workforces and seek more opportunities abroad, particularly within the region, Asia and Africa to grow their often insular businesses. 

Of course, most of them will meet these challenges, driven by talented and ambitious members of the next generation of family business leaders and building on the great legacies of past generations. 

Methodology is at the bottom of the table

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Top 150 Middle East Family Businesses

wdt_ID Rank Company Founded Family ownership Public/Private Country Headquarters Revenue 2018 US$m Employees Sector Website
1 1 M.A. Kharafi & Sons 1956 Al-Kharafi Private Kuwait Kuwait City 5,000.0 120,000 Construction and Engineering
2 2 RP Group 1978 Pillai Private United Arab Emirates Dubai 4,000.0 85,000 Industrial Conglomerates
3 3 Khansaheb Civil Engineering 1935 Khansaheb Private United Arab Emirates Dubai 5,162.8 68,000 Construction and Engineering
4 4 Kuwait Food Company (Americana) 1964 Alabbar Private Kuwait Kuwait City 2,880.8 60,000 Hotels, Restaurants and Leisure
5 5 Mansour Group 1952 Mansour Private Egypt 10th of Ramadan City N.A. 60,000 Industrial Conglomerates
6 6 Alshaya Group 1890 Alshaya Private Kuwait Kuwait City 7,840.4 60,000 Multiline Retail
7 7 Landmark Group 1973 Jagtiani Private United Arab Emirates Dubai 6,000.0 55,000 Specialty Retail
8 8 Orascom Construction PLC 1950 Sawiris Public United Arab Emirates Dubai 3,002.3 53,000 Construction and Engineering
9 9 Lulu Group International 1966 Ali Private United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi 7,400.0 50,000 Industrial Conglomerates
10 10 E. A. Juffali & Brothers 1946 Juffali Private Saudi Arabia Jeddah N.A. 50,000 Industrial Conglomerates
Rank Company Founded Family ownership Public/Private Country Headquarters Revenue 2018 US$m Employees Sector Website



Family Capital and PwC used several databases for the research. All data was cross-checked with information from the companies themselves. Revenue figures were often impossible to find for privately-held businesses, and the percentage of family ownership of listed businesses was difficult to find, but family ownership of the listed firms in the survey is likely to be 30% or more of the shareholding capital. It is assumed privately owned businesses in the region are in most cases 100% owned by the family. 

To be considered a family business, Family Capital has selected only companies that are 20 years (from June 2018) and older. This 20-year time frame corresponds on average with a level of transition from first-generation control to at least some participation of the next generation of the family owners.