Lebanese-born Brazilian banker, Joseph Safra currently runs the Brazilian banking and investment empire, Safra Group. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, into a wealthy banking family, the family’s history in banking originated with caravan trade between Aleppo, Alexandria and Istanbul during the days of the Ottoman Empire.
The Lebanese family decided to move to Brazil in 1952. In 1955, Joseph’s 23-year-old brother, Edmond Safra, and his father, Jacob Safra, started working in Brazil by financing assets in São Paulo. Later on, Edmond Safra separated from his brothers Joseph and Moise and headed to New York where he founded the Republic National Bank of New York (which he later sold to HSBC in 1999 and donated most of his money to the Edmond Safra Foundation). Joseph Safra founded Banco Safra in 1955 and today it is reportedly the sixth largest private bank in Brazil. He remains the chairman of the Safra Group offering banking services throughout Europe, North and South America. Last year, Safra bought Switzerland’s Bank Sarasin for $2bn, creating Bank J Safra Sarasin. Safra owns the 660 Madison Avenue building in New York.
Kuwaiti family conglomerate the Kharafi Group, which has an annual turnover of around $5bn and is already active in 25 countries, is looking to Asia as its next target for investment, a senior family member told Arabian Business this year.
“Asia is a growing market but it is high risk… We are looking at a couple of opportunities there,” Bader Al Kharafi, a member of the executive council, told Arabian Business in an interview in the company’s headquarters in Kuwait City.
“You can be an investor or run and manage the company. We are looking at investments, maybe some private equity funds, those types of products where they have a good team… Transport, renewable energy and with what is happening in China we would definitely look at renewable energy. These are the sectors we think we could [invest].”
The Kharafi Group has operations in 25 countries around the world, from Senegal to Botswana to Kazakhstan and The Maldives, and has more than 120,000 employees.
The family business has always had strong connections with Egypt, from power stations along the Nile Delta to contracts at Marsa Alam International Airport and the Red Sea’s Port Ghalib, one of the biggest marina resorts in the Middle East.