The Young Leader Investing in a Brighter Future
It has been two very rewarding years for Abdullah H. AlTerkait. Having held the position of Chairman of Al Safat Investment Company in Kuwait since 2013, Abdullah has steered the company through many hurdles and into profitability, placing it ahead of the competition with its values and services. Al Safat has been busy with accolades and milestones in the past few years. Last year, the company received an award from Guinness for the impressive vinyl sticker tribute to the Amir of Kuwait, HH Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, on the Al Safat Tower. A year later, the company went on to win one of the 2019 CEO Today Middle East Awards in the field of investment. Abdullah AlTerkait is nothing short of what all leaders should aspire to be; a leader with a very positive and proactive outlook for the future who has spearheaded crucial business developments during his tenure.
With a background in finance and economics, Abdullah has spent the last 18 years of his professional career working in various sectors in Kuwait. He has previously held senior positions at Sarh Real Estate Company, The Roots for Brokerage (Egypt), Danah Al Safat Foodstuff Company and at Al-Ezdehar Real Estate in Lebanon. His extensive experience has given him plenty of insights into different sectors and regions out of Kuwait. Today, in addition to his position as Al Safat Investment’s Chairman, he is also the Head of Committee of the Politics and Economics Committee at the Union of Investments Company (UIC) and is a board member of local establishments like UIC and Shuhaiba Industrial Company, as well as the Executive Manager of Gulf Cable and Electrical Industries Co for the investment sector. It is indeed inspiring to see someone of his calibre and young age achieve so much in the past few years. His professional achievements are not only limited to the ones on his resume – the 35-year-old award winner also has a long list of certifications in Marketing, Finance, Investment Management and has completed a Financial Services Program from Harvard Business School. He is currently pursuing an EMBA from the London School of Economics. AlTerkait lives by the words of Benjamin Franklin: “An Investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. Education has always been at the forefront of his priorities and his hunger for learning never ceases.
There are not many leaders who, at the very young age of 29, are able to take charge and turn a company around in the middle of a financial crisis. Al Safat Investment was going through a rough couple of years prior to 2013 when AlTerkait was appointed Chairman of the company. Debts were high, employees were in a stressful situation, shareholders and clients were extremely unhappy and there was immense pressure from the banks. At the time, it seemed like salvaging the company and bringing order out of this chaos would be a tedious challenge. Al-Safat Investment Company underwent comprehensive restructuring and embedded the institutional aspect in all of its businesses while setting clear goals with the efforts of the company’s board of directors and the executives. The company’s direction and performance improved as a result. Thereafter, Al Safat saw three consecutive years of profits due to the restructuring initiatives of Abdullah, the senior management and other departments.
Al Safat Investment is an ideal example of how teamwork could yield impressive results. The Chairman strongly believes in teamwork and encourages all departments to work together. Battling all fronts, he has put in efforts to establish a gender-equal atmosphere in the company by hiring qualified women to fill roles in the human resources and other departments of investments. His initiatives are not only beneficial for the bottom line, but they are also in tandem with his ethics and strong beliefs in Corporate Social Responsibility. Last year, for example, the company carried out a very successful Ramadan event with all employees and management personally visiting the group’s subsidiaries and distributing food packages to the labourers who work for the companies.
Al Safat Investment Company was founded in 1983 and has grown rapidly since then. All investments and financial services held or offered by Al Safat are in accordance with the highest standards of Islamic Shariah compliance, which is supervised by a CMA-Certified Islamic finance consultancy company. The company invests in real estate, financial, healthcare, industrial, energy and other economic sectors through participation in the establishment of specialised companies or purchase of stocks and bonds in these companies, or by the management of projects in various sectors.
The company is about to establish a mass investment system capable of generating substantial revenues, to be allocated for venture capital. In addition, the latter will target the investment with some strategic shares in many Kuwaiti startup companies. Part of AlTerkait’s vision for Al Safat’s future is to be involved in SMEs and to support young entrepreneurs. The Chairman strongly believes that leaders should support the next generation of leaders in the business world and promote a good relationship between corporate and small businesses. Kuwait’s 2035 vision plans to attract KD 400million to various sectors including petrochemicals, information technology, services, and renewable energy. The country plans to promote an atmosphere that enables SMEs to participate in the nation’s economic development. The National Fund for Small and Medium Enterprise Development is one of the country’s key initiatives tasked with enabling the private sector to drive growth. With nearly 80% of the population still employed in the government sector, there has been a rise in young entrepreneurs and startups. Through Al Safat, AlTerkait would like to support these small businesses by offering financial advice and services and possibly a co-working space for those who work from home or coffee shops. He hopes his initiatives will help pave the way for a better future for the economy of Kuwait, while being in line with the vision of His Highness, Emir of Kuwait, to transform Kuwait into a financial hub. While supporting startups, the Chairman will also be personally looking into investment opportunities for the company, in SMEs that stand out, particularly in the innovation and tech space. 2018 had some noticeable developments in the investment activities area at both local and regional levels. This targeted the startups, tech companies and VC funds resulting in a significant rise in investment deals. The Middle East and North Africa region managed to conclude 366 deals with a total investment of USD893 million, subject to the indication of some independent statistics concerned with following up the activities of venture capital. Subsequently, there was also a notable rise in Mergers and Acquisitions declared by the commercial entities and multiple sectors. AlTerkait predicts that 2019 will witness the same trending rise of such deals, in addition to the notable growth of the investment funds and the finance sector targeting startups and SMEs. These trends will continue to attract the interest of investment and financial companies who would be keen to capitalise on this vital and promising sector.
The company is in the process of rebranding with the view of transitioning from traditional to modern while offering multiple new investment products and services to its clients. When it comes to the securities market, Al Safat Investment Co. holds a license issued from Capital Markets Authority to practice managing the investment portfolios business in its various kinds for the benefit of the company’s clients, in Kuwait and globally. The company has a team that specialises in working to achieve profitable returns on the managed portfolios of the company. The total managed funds account for over USD 120 Million as of January 2019. It manages local and regional investments of USD 300 Million. The company is also working on creative strategies and solutions in partnership with international consultants in order to provide the best opportunities for the benefits of its corporate and private individual clients.
The administration of Al Safat Investment Co. is applying a secure and comprehensive strategy while managing the direct investments and the managed financial portfolios for the clients. Such portfolios target the operational companies, the leading stocks, fast-growing stocks and constant revenue stocks together with keeping up the ultimate geographical and sectoral distribution. With the company’s direct portfolio being distributed over seven sectors within five countries, the intent is to reduce the accompanying risks for these investments in addition to protecting the direct and client portfolios from the severe fluctuations of the market and the vulnerability the local and regional securities markets may be exposed to. Al Safat applies a conservative and safe strategy in the management of direct investments; managed portfolios of customer accounts are looking to further privatise government entities after the privatisation of the stock exchange and is also looking forward to being a listed company again.
Some highlights of Abdullah’s strategy for the company are:
– Set minimum investment returns that meet the company’s cost of capital.
– Grow the equity base through solid constant profits and cash dividend distributions to shareholders.
– Divest any non-performing assets.
– Ensure that the investments are aligned and maintain synergies.
– Improve management control which is a key factor.
– Set adequate policies and procedures within the group.
– Apply proper corporate governance for the best interest of the shareholders.
Under the guidance of Abdullah AlTerkait, represented by the board of directors and the executive management, the company is seeking to restructure the financial position, address the recent financial issues, leave the unprofitable and non-strategic investments, re-employ the investments in some strategic sectors and instruments, while also promoting the expansion activities of associated companies. The Chairman hopes this plan would benefit the years to come so that a concrete plan will be established for 2023. In fact, through its subsidiaries, the company is currently focusing on the various operational and industrial activities and is seeking to establish a new chemicals factory in Kuwait. Similarly, they have also developed an interest in the Oil and Gas sector and are looking for opportunities to invest. The company has a subsidiary called ‘The Carpet Factory’ which is looking to expand and invest in state-of-the-art technology to improve business and its products. Real estate is another sector AlTerkait is keen on embarking on and is in the process of developing a commercial and industrial complex in the Al-Ahmadi Industrial area of Kuwait. The group is also participating in the health sector through Kuwait Hospital, which will start operating this year and is also looking for acquisitions in various sectors, especially since there are attractive investment opportunities with outstanding profits in the local market. Abdullah AlTerkait and the management of Al Safat hope to reach their ultimate goal of being amongst the best investment companies in Kuwait in the next five years.