Middle East instability won't deter investment in Abu Dhabi's diversification, says wealth fund chief

Hadley Gamble and Julianne Funk
Key Points
  • Mubadala CEO Khaldoon Al Mubarak expressed confidence in Abu Dhabi's growth — despite instability in the Middle East
  • Lower oil prices have been "very opportunistic because it helped us move faster down the diversification strategy," Al Mubarak said
  • Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala has around $125 billion of assets under management and specializes in buyout investments
Seeing gradual recovery in oil price: Mubadala CEO

Uncertainty and instability have always existed in the Middle East, and won't disrupt Abu Dhabi's growth, the CEO of the emirate's sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala, told CNBC.

"Ever since the establishment of the [United Arab Emirates], this region has always been surrounded by instability and challenges," said Khaldoon Al Mubarak, who heads the large sovereign fund. His country, he said, will remain a "beacon of stability" despite the volatility in the region, and the ongoing tensions with neighbor Qatar for the UAE and its three Arab allies.

The Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the largest of the seven emirates, is the UAE's federal capital, and home to two million residents. It's estimated to hold 9 and 5 percent of the world's oil and gas reserves, respectively.

Weaker oil prices have contributed to the slowing of Abu Dhabi's economy in recent years, but investors have sought out opportunities in the government's ambitious diversification program, Vision 2030, which was launched in 2007.

View of Abu Dhabi skyscrapers, United Arab Emirates.
DeAgostini | Getty Images

Lower oil prices have been "very opportunistic because it helped us move faster down the diversification strategy," Al Mubarak said.

Mubadala, the fourteenth largest sovereign fund in the world according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Rankings, has approximately $125 billion assets under management. With investments across sectors including technology, aerospace and chemicals, it has been a key player in the emirate's move away from oil dependence.

Mubadala estimates 48 percent of Abu Dhabi's total gross domestic product is now non-oil and gas related, while foreign direct investment in the province is increasing, having grown 8 percent in 2016 to top $25 billion.

Today, the government is also investing heavily in tourism. The Louvre Abu Dhabi, a collaboration between the iconic French museum and the Emirate, opened earlier in November.

Al Mubarak said that museum, an example of Abu Dhabi's economic story of diversification, sends a "message of tolerance" to the world. "We all have, as Emiratis, high confidence" that Abu Dhabi will be successful, he said.