By 2022, asset management companies (AMCs) in the Arab World have grown bolder in exploring investment opportunities in the areas of technology, cryptocurrency, and other emerging fields. The leading funds of the region are also growing strongly, boasting impressive asset under management (AuM) figures. At the same time, the Arab World’s investment management landscape gets less spotlight, with many news and publications concentrating on the North American and European markets. In this article, we set out to provide a much-needed overview of the Arab World’s top investment funds.
The Ranking Methodology
To collect data on the largest investment funds in the Arab World, we have researched a variety of online sources, including publicly available fund rankings, industry reports, and information on the individual funds’ websites. We defined the Arab World as the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with Arabic as the predominant language of communication.
We excluded the firms operating as regional offices of international funds headquartered elsewhere outside of the Arab World. Sovereign wealth funds and AMCs that solely focus on venture capital investment were also excluded. The basis for our ranking was the AuM statistic, the most commonly used measure to rank investment funds.
The Top 10 Investment Funds of the Arab world – The Key Statistics
The ten largest investment funds of the Arab World collectively have around $540 billion of client money under their management, a massive amount by the standards of the region. For comparison, the budget of the largest economy in the Arab World, Saudi Arabia, is $254 billion, more than twice as low as the total AuM handled by the region’s top ten funds.
The largest fund in the region, the Dubai Investment Fund (DIF), is a confident leader in the rankings. The fund has $320 billion under its management, nearly five times more than the runner-up, Saudi-based SNB Capital.
The top 10 funds of the Arab World and their AuM (in billions of USD)
The DIF’s gargantuan lead over its competitors is clearly observable from the chart above. The Arab World’s investment fund industry is, therefore, an example of a market with one clearly dominant player and a number of distant challengers.
The leading fund’s share of the total AuM of all the top ten funds is nearly 60%. SNB Capital holds 12% of the AuM share, while the other funds all have less than 10%.
The proportion of the total AuM held by each fund in the top 10
Although the largest fund in our rankings hails from the UAE, the country that dominates the list in terms of the number of companies is Saudi Arabia. Four out of the ten funds are based in the Kingdom. The UAE and Bahrain have two representatives in the top ten, while Morocco and Kuwait have contributed one entry each.
The number of funds in the top 10 by country
Although Saudi Arabia has more companies in the list, the DIF’s confident leadership position in the rankings ensures that the UAE has the largest share of the total AuM among the countries.
The proportion of the total AuM by country
The Top 10 Investment Funds of the Arab world – The Individual Funds
- The Dubai Investment Fund (DIF)
The Arab World’s largest fund manager, the DIF, was founded in 2001. From its origins, the fund has had a specific focus on sustainable investment options. In 2005, the DIF set out on an aggressive expansion exercise, establishing itself in 17 international territories. From around the mid-2010s, the fund became very active in the areas of alternative and technology investments.
The DIF’s impressive $320 billion AuM is made up of funds from more than 7,000 individual and institutional investors in over 60 countries. The fund is probably the most active in our top ten list with regard to investments in the renewables and technology sectors.
At the same time, as would be expected of an AMC managing such a vast amount, the DIF is also active in the more established sectors, such as real estate, infrastructure, commodities, and industrials. Given its sizable AuM, it is rather unsurprising that the DIF has a very diverse investment focus, combining traditional sectors with emerging ones.
Of particular note is the fund’s recent spike in interest in cryptocurrency, blockchain, and Metaverse-related investments. The DIF has set its sights on this emerging area, exploring investments in crypto holdings, crypto custody, crypto-based commodities, and other crypto products.
Being the market leader, the DIF does seem eager to lead by example. Hence, its appetite for emerging and renewable sector investments. However, the fund’s vast AuM also means that it is still going to be firmly rooted in the traditional investment areas as well. In the region where conservative investment options rule supreme, you simply can’t allocate the entire $320 billion to emerging sectors.
- SNB Capital (Saudi Arabia) – $67 billion AuM
Saudi Arabia’s largest AMC, SNB Capital, is an asset management division of the Saudi National Bank (SNB Bank), the country’s largest bank. SNB Bank is the result of a recent merger between the Kingdom’s two large financial institutions – NCB Bank and the Samba Financial Group.
The merger was completed in mid-2021, creating the largest bank in the country (SNB Bank) as well as the largest investment fund (SNB Capital). SNB Capital is wholly owned by SNB Bank, which, in turn, is under the complete ownership of the Saudi government.
Due to the solid government backing, SNB Capital received a P-2/“stable” rating from the international credit rating agency Moody’s just months after its establishment, in early 2022. Although formally established in 2021, SNB Capital draws on the significant experience of its predecessors – NCB Capital (NCB Bank’s asset management arm) and Samba Capital (the asset management division of the Samba Financial Group), both of which were formed in 2007.
Thanks to its large size, SNB Capital can offer individual and institutional investors a very wide array of investment products, which currently include four regional index funds; fourteen equity funds with regional or Saudi focus; a global equity fund; two industry-specific funds – focused on the real estate and healthcare sectors; and a number of money market and fixed income funds.
- Investcorp (Bahrain) – $41.2 billion AuM
Bahrain’s largest asset manager, Investcorp, is the only fund in our top list that concentrates mostly on alternative investments. The fund was established in 1982 and is one of the older AMCs in the region. Originally, the fund manager specialized in private equity investments.
Over the years, Investcorp has diversified its operations and now has six separate investment streams – private equity, absolute return investments, infrastructure, credit management, real estate, and strategic capital. Out of these areas, the two largest investment streams for the company are real estate (with AuM of $23 billion) and credit management (with AuM of $13 billion).
The firm’s largest investment class, real estate, was established in 1996 and includes over 1,000 properties in the US, India, and European countries. With real estate representing more than half of Investcorp’s AuM, this fund manager could be classified as a specifically real estate-oriented investor. The fund’s 2nd largest investment stream, credit management, is comprised of investments in secured corporate debt issued by mid-size and large businesses in the US and European markets.
- Riyad Capital (Saudi Arabia) – $21.7 billion AuM
Riyad Capital, established in 2008, is a wholly owned asset management subsidiary of Riyad Bank, one of the largest Saudi banks. Riyad Bank itself is 51% owned by the government of Saudi Arabia. Last year, Riyad Capital signed an agreement with BNP Paribas Securities, the investment management arm of BNP Paribas, to provide joint custody and fund management services in Saudi Arabia. The agreement is considered to be the first one of its kind in Saudi Arabia, a challenging market for many global investment firms.
Riyad Capital offers investments in five primary fund types to its clients – equity funds, fixed income funds, money market funds, real estate traded funds, and funds of funds. Equity funds are the AMC’s key investment area, with no less than sixteen different options on offer. These include equity funds with a focus on US, European, Japanese, Asian, and Gulf equities.
Fixed income funds are another major product stream for Riyad Capital. Currently, the firm offers three bond-based fund products – based on Saudi bonds, US bonds, and a mix of bonds from the leading industrialized economies.
- Alinma Investment (Saudi Arabia) – $18 billion AuM
Alinma Investment is another Saudi AMC in our list that belongs to a major bank in the country. The fund manager is an investment management arm of Alinma Bank. Alinma Bank itself is owned 70% by a variety of investors and 30% by three large government entities – the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Public Pension Agency (PPA), and the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI), each holding 10% of the shares in the bank.
Alinma Invesment was founded in 2009, three years after the establishment of Alinma Bank. The firm’s investment product line is not as broad as that of the larger funds in our list. Alinma’s core products currently include six mutual funds covering the areas of real estate, Saudi equity, money markets, and balanced multi-assets.
Additionally, the AMC is very active in the sphere of charitable investment. Alinma runs five endowment funds dedicated to supporting various charitable causes, such as orphan care, health care, and poverty alleviation.
- Al Rajhi Capital (Saudi Arabia) – $15.8 billion AuM
The 6th investment fund in our list, and the smallest one among the four Saudi representatives, Al Rajhi Capital was founded in 2008 as an investment management unit of Al Rajhi Bank, the world’s largest Islamic bank.
The firm’s product portfolio includes fifteen different mutual funds, focusing on the Saudi, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and MENA equity markets, as well as on commodities and balanced multi-assets; one of the largest real estate traded funds (REITs) in the country; and the discretionary portfolio management unit that designs customized investment solutions for institutional and high-net-worth investors.
Of particular note among Al Rajhi’s products is its REIT fund, one of the largest and most actively managed real estate fund products in Saudi Arabia and in the wider Middle East region. The REIT fund is composed of a balanced real estate portfolio spread across a variety of sectors, such as retail, logistics, and healthcare. The fund is a popular option for investors looking for a steady, long-term income derived from Saudi Arabia’s stable real estate sector.
- Wafa Gestion (Morocco) – $15.8 billion AuM
North Africa’s largest investment fund manager, Morocco-based Wafa Gestion, claims the 7th spot in our ranking. With the same $15.8 billion AuM as the 6th ranked Al Rajhi Capital, Wafa Gestion could only blame the English alphabet for us slotting it into the 7th spot.
The company was established in 1995. It is owned 66% by Morocco’s largest bank, Attijariwafa Bank, and 34% by the French asset manager Almundi, one of the top 20 investment funds in the world by AuM.
Wafa Gestion offers institutional and private investors a wide range of funds focused on equities, commodities, money markets, and balanced multi-assets. The firm also has a strong investment strategy advice division aimed at corporate clients.
- Kamco Invest (Kuwait) – $14.3 billion AuM
Kuwaiti Kamco Invest is a subsidiary of KIPCO Group, one of the largest investment holding companies in the region. Kamco was formed in 1998 and has been listed on the Kuwaiti stock exchange (Boursa Kuwait) since 2003.
The company has four main investment streams – equities and fixed income, real estate, private equity, and third-party solutions. Within the third-party solutions stream, Kamco acts as an intermediary to help its clients invest in a variety of funds in international markets.
Kamco’s equities and fixed income stream is made up of eight funds with exposure to the local, Saudi, GCC, and global markets. The firm’s real estate investments are mostly concentrated on the US and UK markets, where Kamco has invested in over a dozen of large-scale projects. The private equity stream features five funds with a global (3), MENA (1), and local Kuwaiti (1) focus.
- SHUAA Capital (UAE) – $14 billion AuM
SHUAA Capital, the 2nd UAE entry in our list, was founded in 1979 as the Arabian General Investment Corporation (AGICO). The company adopted its current name in 2001. In 2019, SHUAA merged with the Abu Dhabi Financial Group (ADFG), an investment company that was based in the UAE’s capital. After the merger, the new company retained the name SHUAA Capital. The deal significantly boosted SHUAA’s AuM and industry footprint, turning it into the 2nd largest AMC in the country, behind the DIF.
SHUAA has structured its investment operations along the four major product lines – public markets, private markets, real estate, and debt investments. The public markets arm offers investments in publicly listed securities, mostly within the Middle East region.
The private markets arm focuses on high-growth investments in private equity within the region. Under its private equity division, SHUAA invests in companies from industries as diverse as financial services, hospitality, real estate, and energy.
The company is also among the leading real estate investment funds in the UAE. SHUAA’s real estate investments cover retail, hospitality, warehousing, and high-end residential properties in the MENA, UK, and Eastern Europe.
10.GFH Financial Group (Bahrain) – $12 billion AuM
Bahrain’s GFH Financial Group concludes our top ten list. The AMC was established in 1999 as the Gulf Finance House. In 2015, the company rebranded and adopted its current name.
Like any large fund, GFH has a diverse array of investments. The firm has invested in companies in the real estate, industrial, sports, and financial sectors, among others. GFH hit the headlines in 2012 with a highly publicized acquisition of the Leeds United football club via its Dubai-based subsidiary, GFH Capital. However, the company exited this investment four years later.
GFH largely concentrates on investments in and acquisitions of high-potential companies from diverse industry sectors and jurisdictions. The firm has a more limited choice in the area of mutual fund products. At the moment, GFH focuses on a single fund product, GFH Sukuk Fund, that offers exposure to fixed income assets from the GCC economies.