Middle East 100 2021

The annual report on the most valuable and strongest middle eastern brands

Brand Finance Middle East 100 2021

Saudi Aramco in League of its Own as Middle East’s Most Valuable Brand

  • Oil & gas brands dominate Brand Finance Middle East 100 2021 ranking, Saudi Aramco and ADNOC are region’s first and second most valuable, respectively
  • Etisalat overtakes Emirates to become Middle East’s strongest brand for first time, Brand Strength Index (BSI) score 87.4 out of 100; stc is region’s most valuable telecoms brand, brand value US$9.2 billion
  • Middle Eastern banking brands suffer amid pandemic turmoil – 40 banking brands featured in ranking lose 9% in aggregate brand value this year
  • Utilities sector at forefront of energy transformation, Saudi Electricity is the strongest and most valuable utilities brand in the region
  • Bupa Arabia clinches top spot in sector from Qatar Insurance, following 23% brand value growth

This year, the Brand Finance Middle East ranking has been expanded to include 100 brands for the first time, with nine Middle Eastern nations’ brands featuring from: Saudi Arabia; the UAE; Qatar; Kuwait; Oman; Bahrain; Jordan; Lebanon; and Iraq. Saudi Arabian brands are the most represented with 45 featuring and account for 56% of the total brand value in the ranking, the UAE sits in second with 25 brands featuring with its brand accounting for 36%, and Qatar in third with its 12 brands accounting for 11% of the total brand value.

Andrew Campbell, Managing Director, Brand Finance Middle East, commented:

“The Middle East is home to some of the world’s leading brands and each of these are supporting the region’s rise on the global stage. It is not surprising that the six oil & gas brands in the Brand Finance Middle East 100 ranking account for 38% of the total brand value, making it the most valuable sector, with banking and telecoms following in second and third, respectively. As we are witnessing nations across the region focus on diversification – including Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the UAE Vision 2021, Qatar’s National Vision 2030, and Kuwait’s Vision 2035 – no doubt we will be seeing the rise of other sectors in the coming years to rival the traditional oil & gas brands’ dominance.”

Oil & gas giants dominate

Saudi Aramco has claimed the title of the Middle East’s most valuable brand for the second consecutive year, with a brand value of US$37.5 billion. Last year’s Brand Finance Middle East ranking saw the new arrival of the oil & gas behemoth, following the top oil exporter’s recording-breaking IPO. The brand maintains a considerable lead over the rest of the ranking, despite it losing 20% of its brand value this year.

As with other oil & gas brands globally, Aramco has suffered major dents to its profits in the first half of last year as it negotiated reduced demand and lower oil prices, which turned negative in April of last year. As the global economy starts to pick up and return to some level of normality, the brand will be hoping this uptick will be reflected in its profits.

For national oil companies (NOCs), like Aramco, economic contribution to national wealth is paramount to their mandate. To ensure this economic contribution is sustainable, NOCs must increasingly venture into new sources of energy for the world after oil. Aramco has made substantial strides towards building a sustainable future and is focusing on utilising technology and embracing digitisation to reduce CO2 emissions and create next-generation materials.

Sitting in second in the overall ranking, is fellow oil & gas brand, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). ADNOC has managed to successfully shelter its brand value during an incredibly challenging year for its industry, with only a 6% brand value loss to US$10.8 billion, making it the most resilient of all National Oil Companies (NOC) globally. 

ADNOC’s transformation since 2016 has taken the brand from strength to strength. Under the astute leadership of Managing Director and Group CEO  H.E. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, ADNOC has evolved into a trusted global player with one brand and one strategic vision at its core. It has attracted some of the world’s leading institutional investors as partners across its business and has raised more than US$64 billion through such transactions since the start of its transformation. Due to ADNOC’s competitive advantage in cost and carbon efficiency per barrel of oil produced, it is a likely contender to be “the last barrel standing” in the ongoing transition to a low carbon economy.

ADNOC is actively investing in diversifying its portfolio beyond raw commodity exports with recently announced efforts in hydrogen, ammonia and other value-add Downstream products – part of the brand’s longstanding commitment to future proofing its economic contributions to the UAE and maintaining a legacy of environmental stewardship. To date, the Group has invested in a number of measures to reduce its carbon footprint, notably through a significant expansion of carbon, capture and storage (CCS) technology across its business. ADNOC once again is set to raise the profile of Abu Dhabi and the GCC through the launch of the highly anticipated futures exchange for Murban crude.

Mixed fortunes across the telecoms sector as pandemic increases global dependency on operations

The telecoms industry has been impacted considerably by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with its operations thrust to the centre of how societies are now forced to function. Across the industry there have been key trends that have emerged from the crisis, including the increase in data consumption, network pressure, 5G deployment, cybersecurity, and the enhanced speed of transition towards a digital telco model.

Technological investment and consolidation from related industries - especially in the ICT and fintech spaces - will be key to propel growth and to successfully deliver the digital transformation needed for telcos to remain relevant.

Andrew Campbell, Managing Director, Brand Finance Middle East, commented:

“We see a big growth potential for telecoms brand in cybersecurity, collaboration tools, cloud and IoT - 5G is, of course, is the pivotal enabler of these investments. The challenge for Middle Eastern telcos brands is to manage the successful deployment of 5G, while maintaining a focus on leveraging other growth opportunities. Creating integration between fixed-mobile bundles, TV and content, automated home and smart mobility, health and wellness, and digital commerce will be vital to grow and lead the industry transformation.”

The average brand value growth for telecoms brands in the Brand Finance Global 500 was down 2%. The story is similar for Middle Eastern telecoms brands, where average brand value growth for the top 10 Middle Eastern telcos was down 6%.

This year, stc has recorded a standout performance, claiming the title of the most valuable telco across the region, with a brand value of US$9.2 billion. stc’s brand has evolved and grown following its successful masterbrand refresh and extension into Kuwait and Bahrain at the beginning of last year. The company continues to execute its DARE strategy successfully and has strengthened its positioning as a company that enables digital life. Its commitment to digital transformation has been shown with stc pay, recognised as the first tech unicorn in Saudi Arabia.

Etisalat has been crowned the MEA’s strongest telecoms brand, with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 87.4 out of 100 and a corresponding AAA brand strength rating – the only brand in the region to achieve this rating. Thanks to its strategy over the last few years and its recent achievement of becoming the fastest network on the planet, the brand was in a position to respond immediately to the 'new normal' of the pandemic, providing solutions and flexibility in a way that connected emotionally with consumers. Etisalat Group, the most valuable telecoms portfolio of brands in the region which has recently broken the US$11 billion mark, is turning its sights on transforming into a truly global player.

According to the Global Brand Equity Monitor research Etisalat has very strong brand equity in the UAE, ranking first on all of the key measures such as Consideration, Reputation and Quality.  Reinforcing its strong performance on functional attributes, Etisalat also connects with UAE residents emotionally far better than any direct competitor, with a significant lead on the ‘Closeness’ dimension.

Mobily (brand value up 17% to US$1.3 billion) is the fastest growing brand this year amongst the telecom players, having exceeded growth expectations in the market. The growth is mainly attributable to a more positive outlook compared to previous years. The brand also celebrated strong growth in the data and wholesale space thanks to the continued execution of the GAIN strategy, where the company is looking at growing core revenues, accelerate digital revenue streams, implement, and optimize efficient delivery and nurture a positive experience for all.

With a brand value of US$3.2 billion, telecoms brand Ooredoo is Qatar’s second most valuable brand. Since celebrating Qatar becoming the first telco country in the world to launch a live, commercially available 5G network through Ooredoo in 2018, the brand has made significant progress on its 5G journey. Now with over 70 live 5G sites spread across the country, the brand has now launched 5G networks inset its sights on Kuwait, and Oman and the Maldives, and is deploying 5G infrastructure in Indonesia - an expansion supported by strategic partnerships with Nokia and Ericsson.

Banks’ aggregate brand value down 9%

40 banks feature in the Brand Finance Middle East 100 2021 ranking, with a combined brand value of US$37.4 billion. The banking sector is the second most valuable sector across the region, sitting behind oil & gas.

Despite being the second most valuable sector, the aggregate brand value for the industry fell 9% year-on-year (from US$41.1 billion in 2020). In fact, only two banks in the ranking have recorded brand value growth this year: the UAE’s NBF (up 2% to US$259 million) and Qatar’s QNB.

A large reason for this industry wide decline in brand value is down to the role of governments, central banks, and banking brands themselves in combatting the economic repercussions of COVID-19 - distributing government mandated funds, extending credit, reducing fees, and being considerate to customers. The potential loan loss provisions and future economic uncertainty globally is having a negative consequence on the value of all banking brands.

Despite the year-on-year declines in brand value, the net result of the excellent work banking brands have done over the last 12 months is a general feeling of goodwill among consumers. This goodwill is reflected in higher reputation scores for banking brands.

QNB is the region’s most valuable banking brand with a brand value of US$6.1 billion, widening its lead over second-placed Emirates NBD (brand value down 10% to US$3.7 billion) even further. QNB has also broken into the top 50 most valuable banks in the world, according to the Brand Finance Banking 500 2021 ranking. QNB is also the sector’s strongest brand with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 81.7 out of 100 and a corresponding AAA- brand strength rating.

In the face of global adversity, as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the global economy, QNB has continued on its impressive growth trajectory, surpassing the trillion-riyal watermark in total assets for the first time in the bank’s history – the first brand across the region to do so. QNB is spearheading digital transformation across the sector in the region, embracing technology to implement its strategy, spanning open banking, platforms, Robotics Process Automation (RPA), Big Data and Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), as well as digitisation and automation.

According to Brand Finance’s Brand Equity Monitor research, the most important drivers of brand consideration (and therefore customer acquisition and revenues) are perceptions regarding the quality of a brands websites and apps, level of customer service, innovation, and ease of use. QNB, as well as being the strongest banking brands in the region continues to demonstrate high performance against these measures. 

The second ranked banking brand, Emirates NBD - which sits in 8th position in the overall ranking – has followed the sector trend, dropping 10% in brand value this year to US$3.7 billion. Unsurprisingly, the bank’s profits have taken a hit in 2020 driven by higher provisions. As the official banking partner of the Expo2020 – now rescheduled to commence in October – this will be the perfect opportunity to boost the brand’s profile globally as it helps to demonstrate the nation’s innovative culture.

Utilities sector at forefront of energy transformation

The utilities sector globally has had a strong start to the decade. The pandemic and the shift to clean energy has brought renewed focus and investment into the sector. The energy transition presents opportunities in  digital transformation, new service lines and inorganic growth opportunities. The utility brands in the region  are competing to capture these opportunities; the extent to which the successfully navigate this will determine the brand winners and losers over the next decade.

Saudi Electricity is the strongest and most valuable utilities brand in the region with a brand rating of AA with a brand value of $902m. The brand has been undergoing a digital transformation to tie together the huge investments in world class infrastructure to ensure a superior customer experience.

TAQA is the second most valuable Utilities brand in the region with a value of $698m. The recent reorganization and rebrand aims to position the brand as a sustainable energy champion that is fit for the future. The brand is closely aligned with the economic vision of Abu Dhabi; building brand strength amongst its key stakeholders globally will be important to contribute to the vision.

It has the lowest brand strength compared to Saudi Electricity and DEWA, however the building blocks for a strong brand are taking shape; in terms of scale, it is a top 10 utility player in EMEA, it has a strong balance sheet, credit profile, a regional footprint and has the largest market cap in the UAE.

DEWA is a new entrant to the report this year with a value of $526mn. The brand is a central pillar of the Dubai economy and outperforms major global listed utilities in terms of operational performance. The brand is positioning itself for the energy transition with a goal to increase the mix of renewable to 25% by 2030 and 75% by 2050. Some recently announced initiatives such as the shams Dubai initiative, and green charger initiative are examples of the initiatives that will help DEWA realise its goal of becoming a leading sustainable innovative global corporation. 

Bupa Arabia clinches top spot in sector from Qatar Insurance

Bupa Arabia has overtaken Qatar Insurance to become the most valuable insurance brand in the Middle East; strong financial forecasts have helped drive brand value up by 23% to U$618 million.

Bupa Arabia is also the strongest insurance brand in the region, increasing its BSI score to become the only AA+ brand strength rated brand. Qatar Insurance, Tawuniya and Orient Insurance also saw brand strength rating improvements, with the latter seeing a 9.7-point increase in BSI help brand value jump by 42%.

Brand Finance conducted market research among consumers in KSA and UAE to determine the strength of the region’s insurance brands. This includes brand funnel metrics Familiarity, Consideration and Recommendation for which Bupa Arabia achieved the highest scores in each category. The research also investigated attributes associated with the brands, including Innovation, Quality, Excellent Website & Apps and Value for Money. These market research results make up over 60% of the total Brand Strength Index scorecard, and are strongly reflected in the results, with Bupa Arabia, Tawuniya, and Qatar Insurance all performing well.

Although the top three brands make up 71% of the total brand value in the top 10, they don’t dominate on all market research metrics; 6th ranked Oman Insurance Company scored the highest for Great Value for Money and 9th ranked Gulf Insurance Group recorded the highest result for Loyalty. This shows that there are still gaps for challenger brands to use a targeted positioning to secure a niche in the market, as well as beat out foreign brands such as Allianz and AXA that are present in the region.

The top 10 brands are a diverse group, representing five countries and a range of insurance types, with four of the brands featuring in the ranking of the Middle East’s 100 most valuable brands. Qatar RE enters this group as the only dedicated reinsurance business, with a brand value of US$209 million.

Andrew Campbell, Managing Director, Brand Finance Middle East, commented:

Overall, the brand value of the top ten insurers in the Middle East increased by 23% compared to 2020; this strong growth during a year with difficult economic conditions shows that the sector has space to grow into. It is the strongest brands that are seeing the greatest growth and returns. Next year a Middle Eastern brand could enter the ranking of the global top 100 Insurers for the first time.”