CAIRO: In the Egyptian Stock Exchange board elections held earlier this month, Aladdin Saba won 42 percent of the votes in what seemed like an effortless victory. Local media attributed the success to his “good reputation and experience.
Saba, who’s in his late 40s, has gone much farther in his career than most of his peers, who almost unanimously describe him as someone with a passion for success and a sharp eye for market opportunities.
Chairman and co-founder of Cairo-based investment bank Beltone Financial, Saba also co-founded EFG-Hermes. He is also a member on the board of the Central Bank of Egypt, Orascom Construction Industries, Orascom Developing Holdings, Ghabbour Auto and a number of international investment funds.
He is also a member of the National Democratic Party’s policies secretariat, which is headed by Gamal Mubarak.
Saba is also a founding member of the Egyptian Investment Management Association as well as the Egyptian Capital Markets Association. He sits on the board of directors of the Egypt International Economic Forum, and is a member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, the British Egyptian Business Association and the Egyptian Businessmen’s Association.
Surprisingly, Saba earned his first bachelors degree in biomedical engineering from Cairo University in 1981 and received a master’s degree in the same field from the University of Pennsylvania two years later. He then pursued an MBA from the Wharton School, ranked one of the best business schools in the world.
Saba said he decided to pursue an MBA to learn how to run a business better, still thinking that he’d work in biomedical engineering. But soon after, he moved into finance.
Now Saba leads one of the fastest growing investment banks in the Middle East, the first to hold an “Egypt Day at the New York Stock Exchange in February 2008, promoting investment opportunities in Egypt. Last May, the firm organized the “First Day for Investing in MENA in the New York Stock Exchange.
Strategy for success
From its New York office, the firm focuses its efforts on attracting “US international investors, pension fund portfolio managers, hedge fund managers and emerging markets portfolio managers, Saba told Daily News Egypt.
Saba says the key behind Beltone’s success so far is the team of analysts, investment bankers and top management in place. “Our main strategy is that we look at the individual caliber, the work attitude and the work ethics; and then the experience and training is something [we] can develop, he said.
Saba ranks Beltone as the first or second investment bank in Egypt after EFG-Hermes, “depending on the line of business, we [are] first or second on most lines of business.
These business lines include a securities brokerage ranked among the region’s top five and an asset management arm handling more than LE 27 billion through portfolio management and mutual fund products to local banks and institutional investors. The firm’s investment banking operations have closed more than LE 26 billion in transactions in the past four years, namely mergers and acquisitions as well as capital and debt-raising activities.
Going to the New York Stock Exchange in February 2008, and then visiting again despite the financial crisis, Saba aims to “encouraging US Inventors to look at the Middle East as an alternative, talking to emerging markets portfolio managers and hedge fund managers”
Emerging markets, he said, “have a lot of potential and are a spot of hope in today’s global [market].
Regarding political stability, Saba said “Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia are not in the eye of the storm of the tensions, different from Iraq, Israel and Palestine.
While the Middle East and North Africa region was hit hard by the crisis, the impact was less severe than in other markets around the world. “The financial system in our region is quit solid, said Saba.