The Business Year

Jawad Ahmad Bukhamseen

KUWAIT - Economy

Survive & Adapt

Chairman and Founder, Bukhamseen Group Holding

Bio

Jawad Ahmed Bukhamseen holds a diploma in Accounting from the Institute of Commerce and Administrative Studies. His began his career in economics and business back in 1957, and he then became a successful and renowned businessman in Kuwait, the Arabian Gulf, Arab and foreign countries in various fields. His most significant achievements are the establishment of several banks, commercial businesses, real estate firms, investment companies, and several projects inside and outside of Kuwait, where he succeeded in the transition to an integrated business entity. He has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kuwait for more than 16 years, and a member of the Hotel Association, Landlords Union, and others. He is currently a member of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Saudi Arabia and a member of the Trustees of the Arab Thought Foundation.

"Historically Kuwait has been a center for trade."

Founded in 1957, Bukhamseen Group Holding is one of the largest financial and industrial companies in Kuwait today. What is your primary vision for the company?

Our vision is to continue what we are doing in a more diversified way. When we started the family business and entered into a sector, our goal was to establish a business, find the right management, be profitable, then move to another sector and do the same thing. Our diversified model has allowed us to survive all the hiccups in the market. We concentrate heavily on the companies we have in various sectors to make them leaders in their fields.

How would you evaluate Bukhamseen Group Holding’s performance in 2014 and into 2015?

We hope that every year will be a better year. In 2014, we were successful in completing the strategy we had implemented in 2008 following the crisis. In order to make the company more resilient going forward in the face of market shocks, we refocused on our core businesses, on liquidity, and on completing projects or restructuring where needed. Moving into 2015 we have a new strategy focused on growth in our investments.

What do you identify as being the most profitable investments for Bukhamseen Holding?

We are increasing our shares in several banks around the region. Additionally, consumer industries and industries based on day-to-day demand offer great opportunities: water, juice, and food industries, and on the manufacturing and production side, steel, because it is involved in construction and this region is full of new developments. Ultimately, we evaluate every business and every investment we have. We try to invest only in higher-yielding and fast-growing businesses. We avoid attachment to low-yielding investments in order to find more profitable ones, making sure that we are capable of handling rapid change.

How has Kuwait’s economy developed over the years, and what role does it play in the region today?

Historically Kuwait has been a center for trade. It is surrounded by big, oil-rich countries—Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Business was created in Kuwait based on merchant trade. After the war between Iraq and Iran and the invasion of Kuwait, families and businesses concentrated on investing in real estate and establishing industries. At the same time, following a phase of legal reform, the banking and insurance sector were supported and businesses and institutions grew stronger. Kuwait has always been very active in ensuring a stable region and is the first to donate toward any crisis. There was an immediate response when Kuwait was invaded. This is a humanitarian country with many charitable institutions, such as the Kuwait Foundation, which finances and builds infrastructure in the region through lending low-interest, long-term loans.

With this background in mind, how do you envision Kuwait’s economic future?

The more the countries around us are stabilized, the better Kuwait’s ability will be to become a future trade center. Regardless of the oil prices today, the government will continue spending, enhance the private sector, and support investment going forward. All sectors will do well if the government maintains what they are doing. This will encourage the private sector and oil sectors toward further investment.

What opportunities do you see for growth beyond Kuwait?

Bukhamseen is looking to Iraq—a country rich in people and resources. New laws for direct investment in Iraq are encouraging. In 20 years’ time, Iraq will be doing well; we see that in trade already. Considering recent events, Egypt is also doing well. Oman, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are also key growth areas for us.

Are you searching for business partners in these areas?

We often directly invest in companies close to Kuwait who approach us, though we are not so eager to directly invest farther away. It makes a lot of sense to directly invest and gain experience and time in this region. We are investing also in Europe and the US, but always through third parties.

Over the past 50 years, Bukhamseen has seen steady expansion of its businesses. Looking to the next three to five years, what does the future of Bukhamseen Holding look like?

Bukhamseen is concentrating on two things: policies and procedures. We are in the second generation now going on to the third, and we want to continue without any disturbances. We are also developing our product offering. At the same time, from the other side, we want to increase efficiency and make the business stronger and more competitive. We are trying to have fewer loans and decrease our liabilities. Decreasing debt and increasing profitability in all sectors is our main focus. In preparation for future challenges, we are building our resiliency. We are already diversified.

What are your expectations for Bukhamseen Holding in 2016?

Looking forward, we are less focused on diversifying, and concentrating on increasing our competitiveness in the sectors we are already in. We are supporting our current businesses’ efforts to be more efficient and encouraging management to decrease liabilities. Our initiatives are aimed at minimizing risk while increasing profitability. We have waited until the conditions were right to take this approach, and we continue to hope for sustained stability in Kuwait.

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