Saudi Arabia 2017 | ECONOMY | COLUMN

TBY talks to Zahid Khawaja, CEO, Abdulla Fouad Group, on the sector.

Zahid Khawaja

What have been the major achievements of the group in the past two years?

The last several years have been exceptional ones for our group, though in somewhat uncertain times. We reached our 65th anniversary, we lost our esteemed founder, and we reenergized under the leadership of our second generation to continue the legacy of our late founder. We then completed the restructuring of the group and rearranged our businesses across five platforms. Our vision remains ambitious whilst our mission is clear. We have continued to build strong positions in each of our core businesses, which grew at an average annual growth rate of 15% during this period. We have achieved greater market share and revenue growth through market segmentation and geographical expansion, and improved profitability with greater focus on margin growth in the more competitive businesses. We also successfully completed the acquisition of a sizeable portfolio of oil and gas service companies, we continue to rebalance our investment portfolio, and have embarked on converting some of our land bank into income-generating assets.

How will you position yourself within the government's Vision 2030?

Vision 2030 encompasses wide-ranging economic reforms that will affect every company and every person working and living in the country. We see Vision 2030 as a compelling opportunity to make great strides in growing further. We have committed shareholders, a strong board, professional management, and a robust corporate governance structure that will enable us to succeed. Many initiatives and programs outlined in Vision 2030 will boost growth in the private sector both in the medium and long term. The government initiatives to privatize its assets will present us with attractive opportunities, both as an investor and an operator. We will initially focus only on healthcare and education. Another Vision 2030 key goal is to reduce the Saudi unemployment rate from 11.6% to 7% by 2030. Currently, some of our businesses have achieved platinum status as per Nitaqat, while as a group we are in the upper green category. We have set ambitious targets for developing and nurturing young Saudis into leadership positions across all functions and businesses in the group.