Middle East’s family offices are optimistic on revenue returning to 2019 levels

The family businesses also had a strong investment appetite with 67% intending to invest in the next 12 to 18 months, the survey showed

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, July 31, 2012:  
UAE dirhams. (Silvia Razgova / The National)

Three quarters of family offices in the Middle East are optimistic that revenue will return to 2019 levels in the next 18 months as economies recover from the coronavirus-induced slowdown, according to the latest survey from Deloitte.

Seven in 10 prominent family groups polled by the survey reported that revenue had declined by 10 per cent or more over the past year.

The pandemic, which disrupted global supply chains and shut borders at its peak, tipped the global economy into its worst recession since the Great Depression.

In October, the IMF said it expects global output to shrink 4.4 per cent this year and expand 5.2 per cent next year.

“Those families with diversified operations across [several] industries managed to mitigate the impact most effectively and are predicting a quicker recovery than those with more concentrated operations,” Deloitte said.

Family businesses have a long history in the Gulf account for a large chunk of the region’s non-oil gross domestic product.

The Deloitte survey found that succession remains the top priority for about half of the respondents. However, 59 per cent said their legal family governance framework is “currently not fit for purpose”.

The results also showed that 14 per cent of respondents believe that the next generation of family members can lead immediately, while 64 per cent believe they will be ready to lead within the next five years.

The price of oil is the leading economic risk for most family offices, followed by tax and cash collection, according to the survey.

About seven in 10 respondents said they plan to invest in the next 12 months to 18 months, with opportunities in distressed and digital businesses among the most coveted.

UAE family businesses had the highest level of investment appetite, with 93 per cent saying they plan to make new investments during the period, followed by Saudi Arabia at 73 per cent.

“The resilience across the entire family ecosystem has been tested by the recent pandemic," said Scott Whalan, a partner and family office leader at Deloitte Middle East.

The UAE has been formulating new regulations to help family businesses.

In August, Dubai issued a new law regulating family owned businesses in the emirate to help protect wealth and grow their contribution to the country's economic and social development.

Issued by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, it allows for new family ownership contracts to be formed that set out the rights and responsibilities of family members.

The UAE Cabinet also approved a draft law to allow family owned companies to list on the UAE's stock markets, state-run news agency Wam reported in January.

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