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Kuwait 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Major holding companies are taking the lead in promoting women and asserting the effectiveness of the private sector to better realize Vision 2035's most ambitious goals.

Faisal Hamad Al Ayyar
BIOGRAPHY
Faisal Hamad Al Ayyar joined KIPCO in 1990 when it was a USD220-million regional investment company. Under his stewardship, it has developed into one of MENA’s leading holding companies with interests in financial services, media, real estate, manufacturing, and education; operations in 24 countries; and consolidated assets of over USD32 billion. He played a leading role in the creation and development of OSN, the region’s largest pay-per TV company; the development of SADAFCO, a leading dairy and foodstuff producer in Saudi Arabia; and the expansion and subsequent sale of Wataniya Telecom, a major regional mobile operator. Al Ayyar is also chairman of Panther Media Group, Dubai (OSN) and vice chairman of the Gulf Insurance Group (Kuwait) and the United Gulf Bank (Bahrain), among others. He began his career as a fighter pilot with the Kuwait Air Force.

What strategies have been recently implemented by KIPCO to attain sustainable growth?

Our long-term strategy of acquiring, building, scaling, and selling companies in the MENA region has worked successfully for close to 30 years. Through this strategy, we have created a portfolio of diverse operational companies with a primary focus on financial services, media, real estate, manufacturing, and education. This diversity, together with our experienced management team, prudent risk management, and internal streamlining of operations, has been crucial to our performance and strength during both favorable and difficult economic circumstances.

Which sectors of KIPCO's operations have been most affected by market changes in 2019?

The group has significantly expanded its operations in the last 20 years. We have a geographically diverse banking group under Burgan Bank, a pioneering insurance network under Gulf Insurance Group, a unique presence in the media sector through OSN, distinguished petrochemical and manufacturing operations through Qurain Petrochemical Industries, and a food production operation under SAFADCO in Saudi Arabia. Our education network is growing and now covers kindergarten through university. Having said that, our core businesses have had to face some challenging external circumstances in the last few years, such as the implementation of new banking regulations, the introduction of new technology and piracy in the media business, currency volatility, regional tensions, and a weakened operating environment. Thanks to prudent internal controls, good governance, and sound operations, we have been able to withstand these headwinds. It is worth noting that almost all of our companies have continued to profit and are in growth mode. In the media sector in particular, OSN has been facing fierce competition, which we continue to counter with new client-centric strategies that bring unrivalled quality content at prices that suit everyone.

What can be done to increase the level of engagement and involvement of the private sector within Vision 2035?

The private sector has much to offer in the realization of Vision 2035, and the government will not be able to work alone. KIPCO Group has much to offer, and we hope that there is a role for us to play, given the diverse industries we operate in such as health, insurance, banking, petrochemicals, and real estate development. The private sector has the ability to build and operate projects with high efficiency and is innovative in its approach. We believe the government must look to private companies as partners in these projects, and how much we are involved will depend on the government's policies and strategies.

What is KIPCO doing to ensure that women have more opportunities in the workplace across society?

We look to the commitment of KIPCO, represented by two of its largest core companies—Burgan Bank and Gulf Insurance Group—to implement the WEPs as part of our contribution to the realization of Kuwait's Vision 2035. At KIPCO, we believe it is important to understand the key challenges that women face in the workforce and what can be done to motivate and drive more of them to join the private sector, as well as to create an internal culture where women can thrive in their work and also rise up the ranks. The participation of women in our companies, at all levels, makes sound business sense and serves to broaden the pool of talent we employ. At KIPCO, we believe equal opportunities for women and men in the workplace are important to ensuring the sustainability of our operations, apart from also being the right thing to do.