The House of Alireza (also known as Beit Zainal) is the oldest family business in Saudi Arabia, with a history dating back over a century and a half. Its founder, Zainal Alireza, began trading from Jeddah in 1845 with the importation of foodstuffs, textiles and other merchandise from around the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.These activities were later complemented by the acquisition of agencies of the shipping lines that carried these commodities.
Business prospered, and the Company continued its development into the twentieth century. In 1929, the business was retitled Haji Abdullah Alireza and Company. The emergence of a strong, united Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the resultant opening of its doors to Western trade in the 1930s, found the House of Alireza ready for its own participation. From that time onward, the Company’s growth parallels the modern history of Saudi Arabia in its multi-faceted progression.
The forties witnessed a Kingdom-wide expansion programme for Haji Abdullah Alireza and Company, with offices established both in Riyadh and Dammam. It broadened its operational base to include Ford Motor dealership, distribution of petroleum products, telecommunication contracts and bolstering of the shipping side of the business.
Commercial Registration Number One
In view of its long business standing in the Kingdom, the Company received Commercial Registration Number “1”.
The Company and the Kingdom
In 1960, the Company was incorporated into a limited liability enterprise. The subsequent decades witnessed significant change, both in its areas of interest and in the nature of its business relationships. Preferred are partnerships and joint ventures with reputable international companies desirous of participating in the development of the Kingdom.
In assessing potential new business ventures, consideration is given not only to the financial soundness, but also for their inherent ability to contribute to the prosperity of the country. Initiative across a broad spectrum of business are the hallmarks of the Company. It has played a significant commercial role in the Kingdom’s development.
The installation of the first broadcasting and radio telegraph system, the supply and installation of the first automatic telex exchange, followed by a computer controlled electronic exchange for the Ministry of Post, Telegraph and Telephone were the projects piloted by the Company. The management and operation of the Jeddah Sea Port for ten years, the first hyperbolic navigation system for the Ports Authority, computer centre for National Information Centre, land mobile radio and flight information display systems at King Fahd International Airport, Dhahran were some of its other business ventures. In the field of civil construction, the Company, in joint venture with British contractors, has participated in the construction of several airports and military cantonments and commercial buildings. In an equal partnership with a large US corporation, it has operated the petroleum storage, bunkering and handling facilities on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal from 1997 to 2002.
The Company’s capital base has been expanded since 1960 and reached SR130 million (US$34.7 million) in 2003. At the end of 2007, its reserves equalled 100% of its paid-up capital and shareholders’ equity amounted to SR379 million (US$101 million). Its real estate, acquired many decades back, is valued at the original cost whereas its market value is several times higher. An exemplary credit rating affords it the financial strength to launch major projects.
Structure of the Company
The House of Alireza is first and foremost a family concern. There is a separate division responsible for each of the Company’s interests which include telecommunication systems, maritime services, travel and tours, lube oil blending and projects and commercial affairs. A retail outlet, Golden Palm, trades in jewellery and watches. A qualified general manager heads each division and reports to the Chief Executive Officer who is responsible to the board of directors.
Joint Companies, Joint Ventures and Representations
The House of Alireza has participated substantially in the formation of Saudi joint companies with world renowned corporations. A company originally founded in partnership with an international oil company and now a wholly Saudi owned company, is engaged in marketing of lubricating oils, ship bunkering, aircraft refueling. Terminal operation, inland transportation and logistic support were until recently the concern of a joint company formed with the association of a well-known shipping line, which has now been converted into a 100% Saudi-owned company. Recently, it has entered the field of seawater desalination and waste water treatment. It is one of the senior partners in Qatarat Saqia which is currently constructing a seawater reverse osmosis desalination plant for the King Abdulaziz International Airport Jeddah, which will go into commercial production in the first quarter of 2009. The Company will maintain and operate it for 20 years. These companies are managed by their independent boards of directors. Their activities are monitored and controlled by directors nominated on their boards by the House of Alireza.
The Company has promoted and participated in the promotion of a number of industrial projects. Included in these are plants for the manufacture of tin cans and plastic containers, closures for various types of containers, blending of lubricating oils and the production of polypropylene. It has also participated in joint ventures with reputable international corporations to execute major projects in operation and maintenance.
A number of successful international companies are represented by the House of Alireza which assists and supports them in the promotion and marketing of their products and services within the Kingdom. Ever diligent in forging new contacts around the world, the Company keeps its finger on the pulse of the global business community.