Amid Unrest, Accenture Slides Into Middle East

by Vault Consulting Editors | June 10, 2011

Reports this week suggest that American drone attacks on Yemeni militants had reached unprecedented frequency as the country's attention remains fixed on the current political and social upheaval. Of course, such unrest has gripped the entire region in the last few months, crippling governments and economies across the Middle East. Despite the obvious dangers and uncertainties, however, Western companies have continued to seek investment opportunities in anticipation of what will be a new era of Middle Eastern trade in the coming years.

Accenture, one of largest tech consultancies in the world, is among those companies seeking inroads in the region. This week, the Dublin-based giant announced that it had purchased the IT services unit of Al Faisaliah Group, a Saudi Arabia-based conglomerate with a hand in everything from food and beverage to petrochemicals. Of course, Accenture won't be concerned with that: it's greater concern is gaining a foothold in the powerful Arab state and elsewhere in the region. "Strengthening our presence in Saudi Arabia is a priority for Accenture," said regional managing director Omar Boulos. Accenture senior managing director David Thomlinson echoed that sentiment, saying, “The agreement demonstrates our commitment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and enhances our ability to provide a much broader range of services for clients in the region.”

In an interview this week, Boulos told Bloomberg that the firm plans to grow quickly in the Kingdom and the region at large, predicting growth outpacing the IT services industry's overall rate (17 percent year over year) in the region today. Boulos also predicted double-digit growth in neighboring countries like the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.

So all in all, it looks like a pretty straightforward investment for Accenture; nabbing one of the industry's top players in an emerging market is far easier than building a presence there organically.

But there's more to it than that. Currently at the helm of Al Faisaliah Group is Prince Mohammed K. A. Al-Faisal, son of the company's founder and a powerful member of the country's ruling monarchy. In a Kingdom where family ties mean everything, particularly in business, Accenture now has a major ally. And don't dismiss the regional crises as irrelevant to this development, either: the regime in Saudi Arabia, itself an autocratic oppressor like some of its recently-deposed neighbors, has managed to crush most of its internal dissent and emerge as a stable power broker in a region wracked with instability. Buoyed by its ties with US and a lucrative oil industry, Saudi Arabia could establish some regional hegemony simply by remaining stable and strong. And of course, political stability leads to economic stability, a fact that Accenture is certainly aware of.

Accenture sees big opportunities in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East in terms of cold, hard financials. But it's also making shrewd inroads with the Saudi princes who might soon dominate the region as kings.

For more information:

Accenture press release

Bloomberg piece

Filed Under: Consulting


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