The Nuqul Group is the largest privately owned company in the Kingdom of Jordan with many operations in the MENA region and North America. One may be justly surprised to learn that this huge family business is but in its second generation with both founder and successor active within the company. Today, the Nuqul Group includes 31 companies and employs over 5,500 people in its various markets. The Nuqul family has shown throughout its history that it is able to separate management from ownership, and that corporate governance can be successfully implemented in family businesses structures.
Jordan is a country known for its emerging knowledge economy. Its continuous efforts in economic restructuring and liberalisation, as well as education reforms, has ensured a continuous progress towards weighing out its comparative disadvantages such as scarce water supplies, complete reliance on oil imports for energy, and occasional regional instability. Jordan adheres to more free trade agreements than any other Arab country, including counterparts such as the United States, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, the European Union, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and Syria. More FTAs are in the pipeline for Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, the GCC, Lebanon, and Pakistan. In addition, its membership of the greater Arab Free Trade Agreement, the Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Agreement and the Agadir Agreement, qualifies Jordan as a particularly open Arab economy. Main import partners are Saudi Arabia, China, Germany, the United States, and Egypt, providing goods such as crude oil, textile fabrics, machinery, transport equipment and manufactured goods. In turn, its major exports are in phosphates, fertilisers, and agricultural products. In 2008, Jordan’s GDP amounted to $31 billion and had an official unemployment rate of 13.5% (2007). Known for its beautiful capital Amman, and its rich historical heritage, Jordan does not fail to attract visitors from everywhere and can doubtlessly be considered a gem on the seam of the Arab world.
‘Established in 1952, the Nuqul Group (a conglomerate of 31 companies) is one of the Middle East’s leading industrial groups. Its line of business covers a wide range of products including: raw material and converted hygienic tissue paper non-woven fabrics, processed meats, aluminum profiles, ready-mix concrete, synthetic sponge/foam, plastic pipes, stationery, and printed packaging materials.’ The largest privately owned company in Jordan emerged from one man’s vision coupled by the support of his family and the commitment to fulfil the promise.
In 1952 Elia Costandi Nuqul started a wholesale business in Amman, focused on imports of goods from Europe. The business was named ‘Nuqul Brothers’ adapted to its purpose of becoming a family business in time. And indeed, the Nuqul family, originally from Palestine, joined efforts in growing the business over the years. In the late 1950s the company started production of hygienic paper products. After gaining experience in the industry, Nuquls decided to add to its production line more specialized machinery for paper products. Home production started in 1958. This was a milestone for the family business, as it was the launch of the FINE paper product business, which would become a tremendous success expanding to other Arab countries as well. In 1962 Nuqul Brothers started the production of sanitary towels and in 1966 further machinery for the production of toilet rolls was imported.
1967 brought a most unfortunate turn with the war that striked the region. The loss of the West bank nearly diminished Jordan’s economy by near to 40 percent; the Nuqul Brothers lost their largest market and around two-thirds of their total sales. Internationalisation now came fast to the family business, and a gradual expansion to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the UAE, and Egypt took place. When the family moved to Lebanon because of the war in 1970, another FINE factory was founded in Beirut. It ran very successfully between 1973 and 1978.
Beginning of the 1980s, and after having moved back to Jordan, the second generation of the Nuquls started to join the family business. One by one, Elia C. Nuqul’s children Lina, Randa, Ghassan, and Marwan started to get involved in the company. Today’s Nuqul Group Vice-Chairman, Ghassan E. Nuqul, joined the family business in 1985 after having obtained his MBA in the United States. In the same year FINE paper production expanded to Yemen, running successfully, especially, between 1986 and 1994. Other, similar ventures followed in Egypt and the UAE. The Al Bardi project in Egypt consisted of the establishment of the first family-owned mill. At that point in time the business held around five companies; a number that would quadruple within the next years.
The group continues till date to expand its activities internationally. Internally, the Nuqul family has strived towards a sensible separation between ownership and management, along with directing increased efforts towards professional corporate governance. In 2004 two non-family members were appointed as CEOs of the Group.
To date the Nuqul Group is said to include 31 companies, active in 47 markets all over the world. Largely diversified geographically and in different industries, the group’s core business was and remains paper and hygienic products. FINE has proceeded to include the production and conversion of hygienic tissue paper products such as FINE facial tissues, baby diapers, feminine sanitary napkins, toilet rolls, kitchen towels, table napkins, drinking straws, coasters and wet wipes, as well as all types of stationery paper.
Nuqul Group has more than 5500 employees in its various markets and just moved to its new Amman headquarters in 2006. Till date the philosophy of reinvesting 80% of profits back into the business is maintained and both, first and second generation, Elia C. Nuqul as Chairman and his eldest son Ghassan as Vice-Chairman, are working along-side each other in the company. The separation of ownership and management in 2004, has not taken away anything from the family business aspect of the Nuqul Group, and Ghassan still personally takes care of challenges in many of the 31 companies.
The secret ingredient to the success of the Nuqul Group consists of the values through disciplined corporate governance and a quite unique collaboration between first and second generation in the family. Also, it seems that this inter-generational exchange has lead to an understanding of the importance of talent retention and a clear drive towards innovation.
Tharawat Magazine, Issue 4, 2009