As we head into a brand new year, the headlines are awash in news about our twin heartbreaks here in the Middle East.
Oil is one part of the equation -- more on that in a moment. The other is also commanding daily attention: I'm referring, of course, to the geopolitical drama involving Iraq and Syria. The impact of this transcendent moment is global and the ripple effects, which cut across borders, continue to reverberate.
I am not a political scientist, or a politician, certainly. But I am a concerned citizen of the Arab world. I am also a businessman with long ties to the Gulf region. The company that carries my family's name -- Alghanim Industries, I am the CEO; my father, Kutayba Y Alghanim, is chairman -- was started more than 100 years ago by my great-grandfather. Today, Alghanim Industries is one of the largest privately-owned conglomerates in the Middle East, with more than 30 businesses in 40 countries.
Looking ahead, here's what I predict: The next 12 months will be rich with promise and opportunity, particularly for those who invest smartly and stay the course. Clarity of vision is the key.
I offer this prognosis with full knowledge that oil, now trading near a four-year low, is having a profound impact on our region. GCC nations are bracing for budget deficits. Consumer confidence, a key metric for business, is also suffering. This, in turn, is negatively impacting demand for goods and services that we and other GCC-based businesses make and sell.
But to reduce the power and future promise of the Middle East to a price-per-barrel schematic misses the larger point.
This brings me to Alghanim Industries' 2015 business forecast: Whereas others, particularly those who don't understand the complexities of the Arab world, only see bad headlines, we see the Gulf for what it truly is, and to some extent has always been: a diverse and dynamic marketplace that offers a bounty of natural resources and endless opportunity for those who focus on the long-term. This is a proven path to success in the Middle East. We are, after all, a nation of long-term horizons -- this applies to our business affairs as well as our politics.
And so, as we begin a new business year here in Kuwait, not much has changed for Alghanim Industries. Many issues concern me, deeply, as the CEO of a company with 14,000 employees to support. Like other Gulf businesses we are keeping a close eye on the economy and bottom line, and adjusting as needed. But in another sense I also rest easy, because I have complete faith in the power and potential of the Middle East.
My faith has action behind it. We are in the process of closing a major acquisition that will fortify and further amplify our presence across the GCC, and we look forward to announcing that news shortly. Once the ink is dry on that deal, we'll be looking for other opportunities -- in fact, we already are -- with a close strategic eye, as always, on the Gulf region.
In closing, I'd like to leave you with this one thought:
We still believe.
Political strife hangs in the air, yes. But that will eventually pass or at least repurpose -- our rich history has taught us this much. Oil prices, likewise, will eventually recover. How or when that happens nobody knows for sure, of course. Nor do we know what "recovery" will look like when it happens -- prices may stabilize at a lower set point, or spike up to a new high.
But one thing I do know with great certainty: The Middle East, which has witnessed so much during its long and storied life, will endure, learn and carry on.
I also know this: Alghanim Industries' commitment to the Gulf region, and all that it stands for, is unshakable. That is now, and forever.
This op-ed ran in the January 3 edition of Arabian Business