It became quite visible through the emerging market multinationals’ appetite for the crown jewels of western industries, sparking criticism and protectionist diatribes from politicians and workers alike. Was this because western companies turned from predators to prey?

Middle Eastern and African states cannot yet boast home grown multinationals to diversify from oil, but they have a strategy, and sovereign funds and government holdings are certainly pushing the trend through large investment in the West. Their exotic international portfolio, sudden media exposure and relative opacity are raising concerns about their strategy and ultimate goals.

Advertisement

However, Georges Aboujaoude, general manager of the Beirut- based Financial Funds Advisors, says: “The diversification strategy isn’t new and has been intensifying for decades, with a preference for banking and real estate. The conjunction of high oil prices and good opportunities in the banking sector made the trend more visible.”

Not a recent trend indeed: some of the funds trace their origin back to as early as 1953, and more than half of the $2876bn wealth held by sovereign funds globally belongs to Middle Eastern and African states.

Should we be worried about emerging market multinationals and sovereign funds, their business ethics and views on corporate social responsibility? A bit more transparency would certainly not hurt, but on many accounts they are not different from their western counterparts.

The trend is reversing and we might as well get used to it. It is only natural, and it is just the beginning.

Sébastien Delasnerie, a former journalist and director at the Invest in France agency, advises governments on branding and image in international markets.

Email: sdelasnerie@voila.fr