Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al-Nahyan has been appointed chair of the $790bn Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the main sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates’ capital, in a signal of his expanding influence.
Sheikh Tahnoon is the UAE’s national security adviser, but he also chairs the state holding company ADQ, the country’s largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank, and International Holding Company. IHC is a listed group linked to the ruling family that has undergone an astonishing rise to become the region’s second-largest company by market capitalisation after the oil company Saudi Aramco.
He replaces as chair of Adia the late Sheikh Khalifa, the former UAE president, who died last year and was succeeded by Sheikh Tahnoon’s brother, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The new president has yet to name an heir.
Adia, established in 1976, has for decades invested in overseas capital markets, becoming one of the region’s most important sources of funding for global asset managers. It has also branched out into asset classes such as private equity, real estate and infrastructure.
The sovereign wealth fund acts as a vehicle to deploy excess hydrocarbon revenues to deliver long-term returns for the government.
Sheikh Tahnoon has increasingly risen to prominence, dealing with sensitive foreign policy issues as national security adviser. These have included repairing relations with Qatar and Turkey, with which the UAE clashed during the Arab Spring, while also trying to keep a lid on tensions with regional rival Iran.
His longstanding interests as a domestic and global investor have also stood out. IHC, a listed vehicle that emerged from the private Royal Group, which Sheikh Tahnoon has long controlled, has perplexed bankers with its surge on Abu Dhabi’s stock exchange over the past few years. ADQ has also become one of the most active investors in regional markets.
His elevation comes as Abu Dhabi, buoyed by high oil prices, has cemented its role as one of the few global locations of excess capital. Bankers and companies have been attracted to the UAE’s capital to raise funds.
But the UAE, like other Gulf states, is also seeking to reinvest revenues domestically. The country is trying to adapt its oil-reliant economy for a post-oil future, as well as taking greater control over how its capital is deployed overseas.
Earlier this week, ADQ and IHC, both chaired by Sheikh Tahnoon, teamed up with General Atlantic to launch a global asset management firm based in Abu Dhabi.
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