Firm’s founder and chairman honored at Arabian Business Achievement Awards 2013 with Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the development of business, finance and investment in the Middle East and Africa
Citadel Capital Founder and Chairman Ahmed Heikal has received Arabian Business magazine’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award, honoring his contributions over more than a quarter of a century to the development of business, finance and investment in the Middle East and Africa.
The award was announced on 11 November 2013 at a black-tie event in Dubai, UAE, at which former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair, who currently serves as Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, was the keynote speaker.
More than 600 business leaders and senior government officials from UAE and across the wider region attended the gala dinner, which stands as the largest awards ceremony in the Middle East. UAE Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan received the Business Innovation Award, with other attendees including Abdul Rahman Euwais, Minister of Health; Hamid El-Katemy, Minister of Education; and Rashed Ahmed Ben Fahed, Minister of Environmental Affairs — .
“It is always an honor to be recognized by one’s peers, particularly after the tumultuous events of the past six years, from the global financial crisis to global deleveraging and two revolutions in Egypt. It has been a great challenge to manage through this period, but I am absolutely confident that Citadel Capital is emerging as a pillar of the business world in Egypt, Africa and the Middle East,” Heikal said. “In particular, I am very optimistic today about the long-term prospects of Egypt, our home market and the Arab world’s most diverse economy, where we look forward to a sustained economic recovery beginning in the second half of 2014.”
“Success is neither a point in time nor a destination,” Heikal said in his acceptance speech. “It is a journey made of many decisions and choices, filled with high and low points, achievements and setbacks. Most importantly, it is a journey that none of us can travel entirely on our own. I have been part of some truly amazing success stories, and a number of rather less-than-fortunate ventures. Through it all, it has been the people who have walked beside me that have made the journey truly worthwhile. It is to my colleagues, friends and, most of all, my family, that I attribute the lion’s share of my accomplishments.”
Prior to founding Citadel Capital, Heikal was an executive board member and Managing Director of EFG Hermes Holding, the region’s leading investment bank, having joined the then-small financial consultancy firm after defending his doctoral dissertation in Industrial Engineering and Management at Stanford University.
At EFG Hermes, Heikal led the transformation of a small firm into the region’s leading investment bank, serving as an executive board member and having led at various times each of the four fee-generating lines of business: asset management, securities brokerage, investment banking and private equity.
Having formed Citadel Capital as a two-person partnership in 2004 with LE 2 million in capital, Heikal has since led the creation of the leading investment company in Africa and the Middle East with US$ 9.5 billion in investments under control spanning 15 nations. The firm’s capital will stand at LE 8 billion in early 2014 following completion of an ongoing share issuance.
With investments including the national rail operator of Kenya and Uganda, an economically game-changing refinery in Egypt, and the region’s leading independent cement producer with spanning from Algeria to Egypt, Sudan and Iraq, Citadel Capital was until recently ranked the largest private equity firm in Africa for four years running according to the independent league tables of Private Equity International.
The firm is now completing a an EGP 3.64 billion share issuance that will fuel its transformation from a hybrid private equity firm into an investment holding company with majority ownership of most of its platform companies in five core industries: energy, transportation, agrifoods, mining and cement.
Heikal’s track record at Citadel Capital includes the largest-ever private equity transaction in MENA markets (the US$ 1.4 billion sale of Egyptian Fertilizers Company) and one of the largest-ever project finance transactions in Africa (the US$ 3.7 billion Egyptian Refining company).
He is a frequent commentator on national economic issues in the Egyptian, regional and global press and the author of a policy proposal that would help the Government of Egypt curb spending on ruinous fuel subsidies while cushioning any impact of the poor — all while sharply expanding spending on health, education and welfare.
“The best days for me in business are when we embark on something that leaves the communities in which we do business better than we found them,” Heikal said. “Sometimes that is the opening of a factory and the job creation that entails, other times it is the announcement of each year’s class of Citadel Capital Scholars, 115 of whom have studied or are now studying for graduate degrees at top global universities on full scholarships with one condition: That they return home to work in their chosen fields following their graduation.”
Heikal concluded his remarks with thanks to his wife, mother, and father, the journalist and intellectual Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, all of whom attended the event as his guests of honor.
“Over the years, I have come to realize that the book I would have written would have been titled, ‘Everything I Really Need to Know, I Learned from my Father.’ His lessons have formed the foundations of everything that I do,” Heikal said to emotional applause from the audience.
“My approach to life is simple: Dream big, have the audacity to execute, get the best people, incentivize them properly, and lead by example. If you do not adore it, don’t do it. You don’t want to find yourselves waking up in the morning asking, ‘Why do I do this?’” he concluded.