Ajeej Capital: Investing in Emerging Markets
In October 2007, Tarek Sakka and Fouad Dajani launched Ajeej Capital, the first independent investment advisory in the MENA region. Fittingly named ajeej, an Arabic word which translates to "growth and propagation in a chaotic setting," the firm's AUM grew from $20 million to $1 billion before its 10th anniversary despite a deep-cutting global financial crisis, market turmoil driven by the Arab Spring, and years of weak oil prices. Leveraging deep local knowledge, strong relations in the region, and a "PE investment approach in public equity markets," Ajeej had outperformed its benchmark regional stock indices and attracted investing capital from large institutional investors around the world. The case follows the investment methodology of Ajeej Capital's investment fund, the Ajeej MENA Fund, through the turmoil of Ajeej's first decade. The case then focuses in on September 2016, with Sakka and Dajani facing a historic hurdle: Saudi Arabia, the largest economy in the region, had just announced their first ever public-sector pay cuts, triggered by the Vision 2030 agenda. Ajeej, with 50% of its portfolio invested in Saudi companies, had to decide how to position its investment portfolio to successfully navigate a period of structural change in the region.