For a region used to turbulence and conflict, 2017 has been an eventful year for the Middle East by any measure. The motor behind many of the year’s most eye-catching moments was Saudi Arabia which, under the growing power of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured), has not only embarked on a radical programme of social and economic reforms, but also pursued an aggressive foreign policy towards several of its near neighbours (Yemen, Qatar, Lebanon) in a bid to counter a perceived strengthening of Iranian influence in the region.
The aim of this two-part series is to pick up on some of these key themes through the lens of ClarifiedBy.com, for which 2017 was its first full year in operation. By providing accurate and reliable company information on the MENA region we offer a barometer of the key markets and companies being looked at by international investors – often with interesting results.
For a country not normally known for a dramatic domestic news agenda, Saudi Arabia has been full of surprises in 2017. Having started the year with international investors sitting on their hands waiting for more details of the Vision 2030 plan, we saw the lifting of the ban on female drivers in the Kingdom, announcements that cinemas and concerts would now be permitted, a visit by US president Donald Trump as well as the so-called Davos in the desert event in September attended by politicians and business leaders from across the world. This was quickly followed by an advertised crackdown on corruption by the authorities against a number of high profile businessmen and members of the royal family, who were summoned to Riyadh and then detained in luxury hotels in the capital. Some of the extremely well-connected personalities involved include the billionaire Al Waleed bin Talal, Turki Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud and Bakr Binladin, perhaps leaving international investors no better off than they were at the beginning of the year – wondering what is going to happen next.
Many thought that the embargo of Qatar orchestrated by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in June this year would be over quite quickly, with a swift deal agreed behind closed GCC doors. Instead the deadlock shows no sign of easing as we end the year seven months later, with many of the economic sanctions against Qatari business interests, its airspace and borders, still in place. And unusually the spat has been enacted in full international view, with other countries offering support to either side or to mediate, rival camps staging PR-driven conferences in the UK and elsewhere, and Qatar’s decision in late November to bring its case to the World Trade Organisation.
Our key metrics on Qatar for 2017:
- There are 8,375 Qatari companies and 4,619 Qatari individuals on our database
- There have been 4,270 page views of Qatari companies on ClarifiedBy.com in 2017
- We have handled 116 customised search requests for Qatari companies and individuals this year
- As of June 2017, there were 137 companies in the UAE owned by Qatari individuals or companies
In Part 2 of this series we discuss international investor sentiment towards Iran and give more insights delivered by ClarifiedBy.com during 2017.