In the midst of an uncertain global economic climate, Saudi Arabia suddenly finds itself home to some of the biggest and most influential companies in the world. As the King’s vision to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure comes into fruition, so is the economic evolution of many of the country’s homegrown enterprises becoming increasingly noticeable.
Haji Husein Alireza & Co. Ltd. (HHA)
is one such brand. Established as a family business in 1906, making it Saudi’s second oldest company, the group today represents some of the world’s leading automobile and truck manufacturers, including Aston Martin, Mazda, Peugeot, Geely, Geely Emgrand, Yuejin and MAN Trucks.
It is a story which reflects the success of Saudi Arabia as a whole: in 1926, HHA became the first importer and distributor of automobiles in the Arabian Peninsula.
While the company retains some business interests in other areas, most notably IT and real estate, it has concentrated its efforts on the automotive sector since the mid-70s. As a result, the company has extensive geographical reach across the country.
“In the 1970s, the market was really hungry for cars,” comments HHA’s Chairman Sheikh Amin A. Abulhasan, who adds that a patient, growth-oriented strategy has kept the company at the forefront of the industry.
As well as being a family-owned business that has grown thanks to a balanced outlook with regard to quarterly results and long-term prospects, the chairman also points out that improvements to Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure have allowed the business, along with others in the kingdom, to progress.
Nevertheless, he admits that there is still plenty of room for improvement, and highlights the importance of government spending to boost national activity.
“Although the government is trying its best to industrialize the country, the economy still depends on how much money the government spends on building roads, infrastructure, bridges, and sewage systems,” he explains.
The chairman also highlights the importance of bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and the USA as a significant contributing factor in terms of national stability. “There is a friendly relationship between the two countries. This has given the Saudi Arabians credibility, not only in the United States but also over the whole world,” he says.
“There are so many companies in the U.S. that are exporting to Saudi Arabia and there are thousands of students studying in the United States. Even if they fail to achieve their goal in studying, they will be bringing ideas and ways of life that will improve their situation. They will look at society from a different angle, and this will enrich society.”
A firm proponent of maintaining the close ties between the kingdom and the U.S, Sheikh Abulhasan believes that Saudi Arabia is one of the United States’ best allies.
“Libya and the Emirates have a lot of oil, but there is no strategic weight in these countries,” he comments. “Saudi Arabia has the weight of the holy mosques, and the Saudi Arabian government is not just important for oil, but it is important because it is the religious holy place. They look up to Saudi Arabians.”
Sheikh Abulhasan adds “People do not just visit Saudi Arabia during Hajj – they come to visit the holy mosque all year round, and they are spending money. If one person spends 10 riyals a day in Mecca and 5 million people come a year, you can see how much money is spent.”