BEIJING: Fadi Ghandour, one of the best known entrepreneurs in the Middle East, told Arab News that the initial public offering of Saudi Aramco was a good thing for the Kingdom’s economy and its stock market.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Beijing, Ghandour said: “It will be good for the country and for the Tadawul. It will deepen markets and give citizens a sense of participation.”
He added that the decision not to market the IPO directly in some foreign financial centers would make little difference to the outcome of the IPO. “It’s a statement by the Kingdom that it has its own resources, and does not have to rely on others. But I can see how some people would view it negatively. Once Aramco is listed on the market, it will all be much more transparent,” he said.
Ghandour, who runs the startup investment firm Wamda Capital, said the venture capital scene in the Middle East was improving. “Our business is different from the slow down in bricks and mortar. The sovereign wealth funds are finally starting to look at investment in startups and small-to-medium enterprises,” he said, citing recent activity by Saudi Arabia’s Pubic Investment Fund and Mubadala of the UAE.
“There are increasing opportunities in fintech and and e-commerce,” he said.
He said the investment strategy of other big players, like the Saudi and UAE-backed Vision Fund, was flawed. “Throwing a lot of money at companies with high valuations blunts their need to show a serious path to profits. Management loses its edge. The path to profitability is not through having a big brother with lots of money. Startup companies survive because they have a path to profitability,” he said.
Ghandour said he was in Beijing because he wanted a “Chinese perspective” on business. “The Middle East is looking increasingly eastwards, and that’s a good thing. China is always looking for new markets and resources, and they are increasingly innovators these days rather than copiers. They want to be leaders in business,” he added.