Wharton’s Dubai Forum: Change and Opportunity in the Middle East

The first Wharton Global Family Alliance Conference to take place in the Middle East recently convened in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, offering Wharton professors, family-owned companies and regional businessmen a chance to discuss economic trends affecting this oil-rich and rapidly evolving area. Faculty members moderated panels on such topics as “Capital Markets and Investment Opportunities,” “Creating Societal Wealth,” “Entrepreneurship and Capital Flows,” “Valuing Private Companies” and “Managing Family Succession.” Below are two articles that cover many of the points debated during the three-day conference.

Economic Trends in the Middle East — and High Oil Prices — Suggest Fertile Ground for Growth

New investment and business opportunities in the Middle East are coinciding with a number of economic trends in that region, ranging from a booming stock market to an increased share in world trade to greater progress in privatization and liberalization. Rising oil prices in particular, which reached a peak level of $55 per barrel in 2004, have brought prosperity to all oil exporting economies and are encouraging regional governments to diversify their oil-based economies into non-oil areas, such as construction and tourism. These changes, along with political, social and economic reforms, were among the topics discussed during the first Wharton Global Family Alliance Conference held in March in Dubai.

Investors in the Middle East Will Find that Reforms, While Slow, Are Coming

The Middle East region can, in several respects, claim a number of advantages over other areas. It has substantial financial assets, a strong resource base, 300 million people who share a common language and tradition, a history of entrepreneurship that goes back thousands of years, and a strategic location between the East and West, according to Wharton finance professor Richard Herring. “But it also has substantial problems,” added Herring, who was the moderator of a panel session entitled “Regional Capital Markets and Investment Opportunities” at the recent Wharton Global Family Alliance conference in Dubai. Herring and conference participants discussed recent developments in the Middle East.