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Billionaire Arab families revealed in new survey

By Daniel Bardsley

The Arab world's billionaire families have been revealed in an inaugural survey published by Forbes Middle East.

With fortunes of up to $8 billion each, the 15 families listed have made their fortunes in an array of sectors, with several running conglomerates spanning multiple industries.

Topping the chart is the Olayan family, who owe their $8 billion to the Olayan Group, built up by the late Suliman Olayan. Along with partnerships with international brands such as Coca-Cola, the group is a stock market and real estate investor.

Kuwait's Alshaya family, owner of franchises in the Middle East, Russia and Central Europe for Starbucks and other American and British companies, is ranked joint second, with assets of $5 billion. Sharing second place is the Al Kharafi family, also of Kuwait, owner of the Kharafi Group.

“If you drive a Toyota in Saudi Arabia, it came from the Jameel family, one of the biggest Toyota dealers in the world. The cup of Starbucks coffee you sip in Istanbul or Amman is courtesy of the Alshaya family,” Forbes said in a statement, adding that nine of the families made their money through licensing rights of foreign brands, typically American.

Saudi Arabia's Abudawood family ($4 billion; franchises and inherited wealth) are placed fourth, while the Alajlan family ($2.6 billion; clothing and real estate), also of Saudi Arabia, are ranked fifth. The UAE's Al Jaber family ($2.5 billion; construction and manufacturing) are placed sixth, followed by Khalid Bugshan and family of Saudi Arabia ($2 billion; PepsiCo bottler and distributor, and real estate), and fellow Saudis the Alhokair family ($1.8 billion; retail and shopping malls). The top 10 is rounded out by two more Saudi Arabian families, Ahmed Salem Bushan and family ($1.8 billion; PepsiCo bottler and distributor, and steel) and the Sharbatly family ($1.7 billion; real estate and investments). Five more Saudi families complete the list of 15.

Forbes has also published an updated list of Arab billionaires, with many having seen their fortunes shrink over the past year. Underperforming stock markets, the strength of the dollar and falls in oil prices are key factors blamed on the decline.

The combined net worth of Arab billionaires shrank nearly a quarter over the past year to $95.5 billion. There are now 32 Arab billionaires, all male, with 12 people having dropped off last year's list and five new names added.

The richest Arab remains Saudi Arabian investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whose fortune of $17.3 billion is more than one-fifth down on 2015, but still more than double that of the second-placed figure, his countryman Mohammed Al Amoudi, whose oil and other assets are valued at $8.3 billion.

Also in the top five are Majid Al Futtaim of the United Arab Emirates ($5 billion), Abdulla bin Ahmad Al Ghurair and family, also of the UAE ($4.9 billion) and Egyptian businessman Nassef Sawiris ($3.7 billion). Billionaires from Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman and Qatar are also on the list.

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